Add It or Slash It?

When I edited A Lovely Wreckage, we (my editor Mark and I) made changes, of course. Not a whole lot, because they were individual poems that could stand alone without the collection.  However, Mark made some suggestions, and looking back I’m pretty sure I took all if not most of them, because they line4d up with the idea I had in mind.

Tuesday Afternoon ain’t like that.

When Zachary (new editor) suggested format changes, I was all for it, and here is why:  I wrote the piece for performance (more on that later.)  This was rewriting the piece for reading purposes.  It’s a different ballgame, and I am all for his format suggestions.  Also, there were some other aspects he suggested changes on…some I like, some I don’t.  Anyway, I made the fatal mistake of sending it to Sahar, who reads everything I write including various correspondence and many long text messages.  As my best friend, you would think she would have glowing things to say, but no, she hated it.  My mistake was not telling her in advance about the performance vs. reading thing.  Of course, she hated it.  She heard me read it…she heard me perform it.  So did Mark.  He’s going to hate it, too.

But as Kevin said to me during one of our deep conversations that we fit in between inside jokes and YouTube videos, you’re not writing for your friends and family, you’re writing for your fans.  Your friends and family are going to love whatever you do in the end.  They’re not the real audience.

So, my cousin Erin read it.  Yes, family, but Erin has the talent of being extremely blunt when asked to be, no holds barred.  And she enjoyed it.  Likely, because she never read the original.  But really…what is an original?

When I worked in theater, every single play I ever did went though massive edits during rehearsals, from straight-up script rewrites to blocking reworks.  Everything was moved around and crossed out and added on until you got the final product, and that is what is going on with this mini-chap.  That is what has always been going on for it.

It started with a line from a poem by another woman, for chrissake.  It was a challenge…take a line from her poem, and start a new one of your own with that line.  I picked a line; I wrote a poem.  I won a prize.  I polished the poem and deleted the other poet’s line.  I added to the poem…a lot.  I edited the poem.  I sent it off to be picked, and it was.  And so…I continue to edit the poem, changing things to make it better than it was, albeit different.  Enhanced, I prefer to think of it.

Kevin also said that the only person whose opinion really matters is my own, which is definitely true.  What comes out will be what I wanted it to be, no matter what is printed on the page.  Some of the edits are big leaps for me, but some that I am willing to take to put out the best possible finished product, just like I would do if I were working a show.  Kill your darlings, and all that jazz.

Sigh.  I suppose I am off to reread.  I will sit with it a bit, then make some more edits, then send it back to Zachary who will likely throw it back to me and so on and so forth until it’s ready to roll.  All I need is patience and a clear eye.

A Foot in a Door

Recently, I had some good news, but I was reluctant to share without getting my feet wet, first. 

A while back, I answered an ad on Submittable.  For the new reader, Submittable is a website most literary journals use to organize their submissions, so it is where I am often found sending stuff out.  Anyway, the ad was for a social media management intern.  They needed someone to run their socials.  I, with no job and a strong desire to break into publishing in any way necessary, thought I could handle such a thing and wrote them a letter.  I have no real writing resume, and no expertise as a social media manager, so I didn’t hold great hope, so when my application rolled to “in-progress,” I was surprised.

After a while, I got a reply, saying thanks but no thanks on the media manager position.  But then, the second line…would I be interested in being a reader?

Another internship-style position, but a better one, in my opinion.  More hands on.  More into the actual reading and writing and approval of what gets published.  Would I be interested?  Damn straight.

And so, for the past month or so, I have been a fiction and poetry reader for Ember Chasm Review.

I remember sending my first rejection.

I was sad.  It was good poetry.  It just didn’t fit the brand, so it had to be rejected.  And I, as newly crowned queen of the slush pile, had to do it.  I sent a little silent apology to the author.  I’ve received so many rejections, and honestly, I don’t care that much; I’m not the sort that keeps track.  But I know some people out there do, and every time I hit the rejection button, I feel a little sad for them.

Oh, but when I get to set something as “in-progress!”

When I get a well-written, interesting piece that matches the brand, that is exciting!  I cheer for the individual, and hope they make it through the next round, even though I know many do not.  Still, how wonderful it is, I know, to see your submission roll over to “in-progress.”  As I write this, I have several poems in this stage, and five mags looking at my short RBG piece…I know someone is going to want something. 

I know it.

Next up is a Halloween contest held by Button Eye Review, an imprint of Ember Chasm that focuses on horror and the like.  I will be judging it with one of the editors, and I am very excited as I love horror…it was the genre that made me fall in love with reading.

I was waiting to share this lovely news until I was on the website, which I should be in a couple days, but as I needed something to write about today and I have next week’s topics all planned out, I figured I would announce this cool development today.

I am so excited to be involved with this review.  They have awesome things planned, and the issues they have put out so far are great.  I invite you to check out their site HERE.

Now, off to finish some prep work.

3 days until NaNo.

Shock

I am maybe 12 and sitting at my desk and writing a story about god knows what when I decide that I will be an author someday.  It just…fits.  Cut to…

Thursday, May 28, 2020.

I awoke early, as usual, and felt that terrible nausea that I pray will pass each day. I get sick on the way to take Mark to work.  I think I can probably get to his work and then the hospital if it gets too bad.  Fortunately, it doesn’t happen again, so I go home and take a Zofran and try to get some more sleep.

I wake up around 11:30, feeling a little better.  I check my phone.  A text, a Timehop, an email.  I click on the little envelope icon and find a message from my publisher with a link to an Amazon page.

My Amazon page.

For my book.

Any and all feelings of sickness evaporate, or perhaps are pushed out of the way by simple shock and surprise.  I immediately text my parents and my besties the link, and when I hear nothing from Mom, Dad or Bern I call in a panic and ask them why they can’t check their GD text messages?!  A phone celebration, as I tell my dad that I am finally, blessedly, truly a published author.

Around noon, Mom comes by to take me for a cup of coffee.   She tells me she’s going home to post my link on her Facebook, and when she does, she accidentally posts to my page as me.  “Oh no!  Can you delete it?”  I go to do so, but there are already likes and comments.  Eh…so what if people think I’m talking about myself in the third person?

After we get home Mark gives me a big hug and congratulates me.  I still don’t feel like it’s real.  Friends and family start telling me that they placed orders.  I still don’t feel like it’s real.  Mom tells me she got 6 copies for her friends and she wants me to sign them.  I still don’t feel like it’s real.

When Moms’ books come, and I hold them in my hand…then what?  Will it be real then?  My final proof sits on my desk, staring at me.  It is no different than the copy I will see when Mom gets hers, aside from the fact it has “Not for Resale” written across it.  But holding it didn’t make it real, even…maybe a little more, maybe a little less shock, but thinking that there are people out there that are paying for my words?  Words on paper, scribed in ink?  It is mind-blowing.

Anyway, this is my official blog plea for you to buy my book and make me feel like a real author.  A Lovely Wreckage is a collection of poetry centering around living with chronic illness and depression.  You can find it on Amazon.  If you are kind enough to purchase a copy and you enjoy it, I urge you to leave a review there, and I thank you from the bottom of my still-in-shock heart.

That little 12-year-old girl sitting at her desk and scribbling has been waiting for this for a very long time.

Previusly Pubished.

You read that right.

See, sometimes I will be reading a book and find a typo, and I will think to myself: how did they let that happen?  They, being the author and editor and whomever else reads the manuscript with a well-focused eye.  How can they let that one slip by?

This week I learned the answer to my question: very easily.

I must’ve read my manuscript on the computer at least 50 times…if we count the poems on their own, 100…I have some pieces memorized.  I have had FIVE people besides myself read the document.  Yet, not one of us noticed the typos. 

I, myself, carry the most shame, not having noticed that some commas seemed to have packed up and moved on out somewhere between my original chicken-scratched poem and my proof copy. Maybe they were never there, existing only mentally, but I really think they were.  Anyway, after the fifth readthrough and struggling with Google Docs all day so that Sahar could help me edit, I just read it though once more, took notes on every mistake I found, wrote up the email, and sent it to the publisher. 

And I know.  I know I will get that first copy of my book in my hand.  I know I will read it, and I know what I will find.  A typo.  A lost comma.  A capitalization mistake.  Something, anything…some blunder.  Some error I will take to my grave because that’s the way my brain works.

Anyway, that’s how I spent my weekend.  Now, I have a desire to clean my ransacked house, as I do every Monday after the kiddos leave, so this blog is quite short and not all that interesting.  Unless of course you, like I, have ever wondered how someone could miss an obvious typo. 

It is very, very easy.

Celebrate Good Times

Today I am feeling celebratory.  I was feeling as such yesterday, but was taken down by my stomach again, and unable to really embrace the joy that had fallen into my lap. 

When I got home from the hospital, there was a package.  I opened it to discover three proof copies of my chapbook.  For the first time, I held my book in my hand.  Sure, it had “not for resale” emblazoned across the front, but that meant nothing to me.  Especially when Mark asked if we get to keep them, because he would prefer the proof copy to the final edit.  I could tell from his excitement that to him this was something really special.  It made me happy.  What made me happier was the fact that I was actually holding it in my hands…a physical, printed book.  MY physical, printed book.  My wonky stomach was temporarily ignored as I flipped though the pages, trying not to cry on them.  I haven’t done a deep dive yet, but I have noticed a few things that need to be changed.  Still…so, so, so close.

Also on the book front, the money I needed came though.  And speaking of money…

We also discovered yesterday that Hubs back child support is paid off.  Before we met and a couple of years into it, he was having trouble finding work, and if he did they were temporary jobs that didn’t really pay the bills.  Eventually, he got a job that stuck for a little bit, and then now the one he has he’s been at almost 4 years.  We still struggle financially since I am unable to work right now, but the thorn in his side has always been the child support.  He would give every last penny to his kids if he could-hell, when they’re here I have to remind him not to spend 20 bucks on candy for them at the store.  Mark ADORES his children, and not being able to give them what they want all the time kills him.  But this little victory has lightened that load, and he is relieved. 

Tonight, if my stomach is up to it, we will order dinner from some local restaurant and toast with a bottle of champagne to his kids and my book.  We will celebrate, because we so rarely get the opportunity.  I will spend my day grateful for my little family-the kiddos, who make me smile, and my husband, who makes me proud.

And, let’s be honest.  I’m a little proud of my self right now, too.

And So It Begins.

At the end of August, I finished the assembly of my chapbook.  I thought, as I always think with these things, that is was crap, so I sent it off to be read by my few trusted readers and the reviews came back raving.  So, the bravery that lives deep inside me came out to play, and it sent my little book off to a few prospective publishers.

In my search, I came across one company that I particularly liked.  They’re local, which delights me, and have published a couple books by a poet I like.  I did a little research on them and found that they were accredited though the Better Business Bureau, and a member of the Association of American Publishers.  The reviews I found were all 5 stars.  The interviews I read with the editor were good.  The articles I found about upcoming releases were great.  So, in October, I sent an inquiry to them as to whether or not they published chapbooks.

In January, I received a response, telling me that my book sounded interesting and to forward my manuscript for review.  The review process, they said, would take about three weeks.

Months passed.

A little over a week ago I decided to write an inquiry letter, which was stressful as I have never done such a thing.  Usually I log my submissions and let them sit there until I hear back, but I was on pins and needles over this particular publishing company.  I figured out how to sound polite and professional and sent a little note asking if they received my book and were still reviewing it, and wishing them all good health.

On April 20th, I received a reply: “It would be my pleasure to help you publish your poetry.”

After more research and discussion, it came to my attention that this was a hybrid press.  Meaning, it’s sort of a cross between traditional publishing and self-publishing.  I do have to pay certain fees, which bummed me out at first.  But then I made a pros and cons list.  Yes, it would cost a little money, but it’s a good way to get your first book out there, and establish your portfolio.  Plus, I have complete control over the design and layout.  And on top of that, I look at it as a learning experience-I’d pay for school, wouldn’t I?  And in the end, I will have my book, and be able to sell it, and make that money back.  I went to Mark with my concerns, afraid to ask him to finance me when we have so many other things that need our financial attention.  His reply?  “I’d pay anything to hold your book in my hands.”

So, here is my official announcement that I am in the process of publishing my chapbook with the press I wanted most.  I am already working on it and learning about the development.  I am excited.

I asked my goddaughter if I could use a photo she took for the cover, and she obliged.  When the publisher sent me the mock-up of the cover and interior document, that was probably the moment that the shock finally wore off.

See, I didn’t really believe it for a bit.  I didn’t believe that someone wanted to publish my stuff.  I was trying to talk myself out of it (“well, it’s a hybrid press so do they really like it, or do they just want my money?”) while Mark was trying to talk me into it (“people do not publish books they cannot sell and make money off-they think it’s good enough to sell.”)  Sahar helped, too, pointing out that I was getting more for my money, given the services offered and the effort and cost of self-publishing.  And it should be noted that submission periods for chapbooks are few and far between, so theoretically I could be querying this for years.  No.  That’s too much.  And yet, even after the decision was made, I didn’t believe it.

I didn’t believe it until I saw the cover.  Until I saw the page layout.  Then it became real.

Still, there exists that unbelieving part of me that just knows something will go wrong.  The money will fall though.  The finished product won’t be what I see in my head.  No one will buy it.

I talk myself into these worst-case scenarios, and I know it’s because of my anxiety.  I know it’s false, because mental illness is a liar, and everything will get worked out in the end.  So, despite my fears I will make this happen, and actualize one of my dreams.  The whole book is about fighting depression and anxiety-maybe I should take a note from my own page, and fight against all these voices in my head that tell me it isn’t good enough.  There is another voice, quiet yet persistent, that insists I am doing the right thing.  She is joyous and excited, and I hardly ever let her out to see the sun, but I hear her nonetheless.  It’s that voice I have to listen to, not those loud and demanding ones that say I’ll never do anything I set out to accomplish.  Those voices are wrong.  It is the small voice, always pushing me, always celebrating my accomplishments, that I need to pass the microphone to.

Anyway, in closing, I’m publishing my first book.  I’m scared, I’m excited…I’m hoping you buy it.