Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Resilience Rocks -- Solid

I read an article recently that said children like heroic stories of good overcoming evil because children favor fantasies. 

I wonder if that is supposed to apply to heroic stories of triumph over tragedy as well. If so – I hope I never lose the child in my vision.

I believe most lovers of stories will agree with me in this. That includes lovers of adult stories and young adult stories and all stories. By the way publishing sales statistics agree.

I also believe that these stories are not fantastical. Quite the contrary – they are the stuff of very real life. And they are all about resilience.

Human beings are hit by hellish circumstances. They are inundated by the deluge. They are stunned for a moment. Then they stagger upright and battle back. Then they survive.

All over the TV now we witness the stunned interlude. Cold and exhausted the stormed out homeless and all but homeless stare into the cameras.

The rest of us watch and listen with compassion. But meanwhile we wait. We are waiting for the other stories we hope will come. Experience tells us we will not be disappointed.

Close on the heels of this interval of disbelief and devastation we will begin to hear them. Tales of being driven down then staying down for a while followed by the struggle to stand again.

These are stories of resilience and they are as real as the life of every beating heart. These are the real stories of Staten Island and the Jersey Shore and Breezy Point and the Ninth Ward. They resonate with the real stories from our own personal heroic histories.

We love these stories. We long for them to be told. We need them to be told. We as writers have a responsibility to tell them.

So write it down – every child soul testimony of struggle you encounter. This is the record of the human spirit and it is not fantasy. It is true as truth can be.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Everything Is Material

In the 1990’s my client Karen Plunkett Powell had to be plucked from the fury of a New Jersey hurricane. She and her young son Jason crawled onto the porch roof to reach the rescue rowboat.

She carried two things with her wrapped in a black garbage bag – a copy of the manuscript that was on deadline to her editor and a notebook.

I’d been on the phone with her before the rowboat arrived. She was understandably agitated. When I eventually saw the rescued notebook I discovered that throughout her agitation she’d been recording observations.

She wrote down what she saw and what she heard and especially what she was feeling. As water rose through the basement and ground floor beneath her she persisted with two things – comforting her son and taking notes.

Karen understood that everything is story material. And that this is several times true for the Intense Dramatic Powerful events of our lives.

Many of us have been dished a giant helping of Intensity and Drama and Power in the path and wake of Hurricane Sandy. We have also been dished a giant helping of story material.

Two extraordinary authors knew just what to do with that powerful plateful in the path and wake of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. Each made bitter lemons into lemonade with its own unforgettable bitterness in distinctly different ways.

Journalist Chris Rose created stark and resonant New Orleans Times-Picayune columns that became the stark and resonant book One Dead in Attic – a riveting read if there ever was one.

Novelist James Lee Burke created an equally devastating Dave Robicheaux story in The Tin Roof Blowdown. Both made Katrina so real on the page it is almost too much to bear.

What amazing work will emerge from the winds and storm surge of Hurricane Sandy? If you were not in Sandy’s path what devastating event have you endured in your life? I will wager there has been something.

Have you filled your notebook yet? When do you plan to do so? I suggest you get to that as soon as possible. Your work will be intensely dramatically powerfully enriched by the effort.

Our dear Karen was carried away on the winds of mortality a few years after that other storm. I shall never forget the image of her being rowed down her deluged street carrying her writer’s treasure to safety as I imagine her carrying it still.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Whole Lot of Being Nice

“What it takes is a whole lot of being nice to people.”

Once again I am inspired by Sabrina Jeffries’ uplifting breakfast talk at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference.

Her advice was about finding reader fans. Mine is about moving even closer in and finding each other. We writers are our own most natural allies. We understand one another from the inside.

We understand what it is really like to be here now in this formidable publishing marketplace. We understand what it is really like to struggle at getting our work published and keeping it published.

We also understand how much we all need support in these hard struggles we have chosen. We understand because we need that same support ourselves.

With this understanding comes something of an obligation. That obligation is to reach out and give what is needed – a little bit of niceness to our writer friends.

All it takes is a few words in a few sentences of encouragement and kindness. Over a career these few words at a time will add up to what Sabrina inspires us toward – a whole lot of being nice.

Social media makes it easier than ever to undertake this worthy pursuit. Writer colleagues and acquaintances are right there among your Friends family and mine.

It’s as easy as one two three. One – go on Facebook. Two – find a writer. Three – message a bit of kindness especially from you.

I try to practice what I am preaching with my own one two three. One – put a smile in my words and mean it. Two – listen and care. Three – help out when I can.

Tidbits of advice tend to be my personal form of niceness shared. What is yours? Find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter and let me know the answer to that.

More important – take a moment today to touch another writer with your own whole lot of being nice. I guarantee you will experience a whole lot of feeling good in return.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

One Reader at a Time

“You find your fans one reader at a time.”

Author Sabrina Jeffries said that Saturday morning as breakfast speaker at the annual New Jersey Romance Writers Conference. Those words jolted me fully awake.

First of all they struck me as absolutely true. Second they prompted me to wonder. “How do we do that?” I’ve contemplated that question for three days now. Here is my conclusion.

We must each turn the question toward ourselves individually. “How do I do that? How do I find my readers one at a time?” Which prompts other questions we must each ask ourselves.

#1. What is the special gift I have to offer others – one potential reader at a time?

Maybe it is humor. Maybe it is telling memorable anecdotes. Maybe it is expertise. Maybe it is setting folks alight with inspiration.

Open your kitbag and examine the contents closely. What is in there that others might need? What is in there that others might want? Now resolve to give it away.

#2. What access can I create for giving my gift away – one potential reader at a time?

When searching for resources – first step out your own front door and look up and down the street. Start local. Cultivate that ground. Plow on from there.

Your own front door includes your rolodex. Remember those? The repositories of information about people we actually know – or almost know – firsthand.

#3. What if someone says this is too slow to go – one potential reader at a time?

Personally I do my best to fight back this fear. Because I know full well that in this internet place I am a single voice among a thundering avalanche of voices.

But as a giver of my gifts to each single soul I am singular as well. And that single number counts.

So keep on facebooking and tweeting and all the rest. Do that at least in part because it’s fun. But don’t forget how much fun it is and effective also to reach out and touch someone.

One reader – one person – at a time.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

(Because Today would be his 105th Birthday)

In the beginning was the father
Who could make me laugh.
Sat me on his knee
And read the funny papers.
Katzenjammer Kids. I loved that name.
I loved him too
The way his voice was deep
And made me feel all cuddly safe.

In the beginning was the father
Who built a go cart
In the back of our garage
For me to ride down long Salina Hill
Fast enough to beat Dick Withington
Whose doctor dad
Drove long black cars
But could not build a go cart.

In the beginning was the father
Who told corny jokes.
“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
Then answered back himself.
“He thought his house was on the other side.”
“Dad, that isn’t how it goes,”
I told him giggling.
“That’s how it ought to go.”
He’d wink at me and chuck my cheek.

In the beginning was the father
Who invented things.
Like windshield wiper cups
To catch dead bugs –
A bookstand on a sponge
For reading in the tub –
A contraption that could start the car
From in the house on frigid mornings.

In the beginning was the father
Whose heart had almost fire enough
To warm the middle and the end.

Alice Orr

Monday, July 2, 2012

Value Added

I’m back to writing fiction again for the first time in years. My last novel was published before my granddaughter was born and she is into her teen years now.

Lots and lots of nonfiction in between but no fiction. Lots and lots of teaching how to write fiction and make it marketable but no writing it myself.

Now I intend to apply all of those teachings to this project. In other words I intend to add value every chance I get. Here’s how I’m doing that. Please feel free to do the same.

Beginning with the concept. This is a series project and publishers attribute added value to a series. Why? Because a series can build readership through several books. A loyal readership drawn to and hooked into characters they want to spend time with again and again.

Then there is the genre. I’m writing women’s popular fiction. First because I enjoy writing about people and relationships. There are oodles of opportunities for story struggle and conflict in relationships. There are also oodles of readers. Market potential is market value to the max.

Then there’s the execution. In other words – the text sample. I wrote the you-know-what out of the text sample. Then I wrote it again and again and again. Until I could honestly say “This is the best I can do right now.” Then I wrote it again.

Next there’s the X-factor. I added recipes. The foodie movement is huge right now. BUT I did not put the recipes themselves in the text. The dishes are in the story but the recipes are separate at the end. That way they don’t disrupt the forward momentum of the storytelling.

There are other X-factor possibilities as well. Look at what Debbie Macomber has done with knitting. Any avocation or vocation will do as long as it adds value to the story action.

Finally there’s the package. Why am I the person who should write this series? Well – setting is big in series and I lived for several years in a community very like the one in my stories. Besides I have a resume as writer/teacher/publishing pro. What’s in your resume? What should be there that you left out? Modesty is inappropriate here.

P.S. there’s the Double X-factor. I will build a promotional platform and sell the you-know-what out of these books. You’ll do the same for your books won’t you?

All of that plus me – or you – as our fabulous selves and the Triple-X factor for our projects. That equals value added that could send our personal professional math through the roof. So let’s start adding.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

20 Things to Do About Manuscript Rejections

Adapted from Valerie Lee’s Facebook post “20 Things to Start Doing in Your Relationships”
(The plain print is the quote or the adaptation. The italics are my responses.)

Get out of the negative reaction as soon as possible. Use the F-word lots of times then move on.
Let go of this chance as already gone. Those tasteless creeps didn’t deserve your work anyway.
Give another editor/agent/whatever a chance. There’s a slim chance this one may have a brain.
Show all publishing professionals kindness and respect. Just grit your teeth and do it.
Accept them just the way they are. At least you don’t have to be them.
Encourage them and cheer them on. Excuse me for a moment. I feel a gag reflex coming on.
Be your imperfectly perfect self. Which is not as bad as they try to make you think it is.
Forgive and move forward. Or maybe just get to what Anne Lamott calls forgivish.
Do little things every day for others. Like tell them not to submit their work to this jerk.
Always be loyal. I actually am gagging now.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. This absolutely does not work in publishing.
Keep your promises and tell the truth. I’m not sure that one works either.
Stay in touch with people who matter to you. But blow off this dope.
Give what you want to receive. I guess that means acceptance. Let me know how that goes.
Allow others to make their own decisions. I didn’t know we had a choice about that one.
Talk a little less and listen more. Where’s the fun in that?
Leave petty arguments alone. But petty arguing is my personal favorite.
Pay attention to who your real friends are. I can get behind that one.
Pay attention to your relationship with yourself… and with your work. That’s what really matters.
Ignore unconstructive, hurtful commentary. Which is what rejections feel like. So screw them.

I apologize to Valerie and to Brett Barker who originated the Facebook pass-around of the heartfelt list I have so cynically vandalized. Nora Ephron’s passing has simply put me in that frame of mind.

God bless you Nora.. as flights of angels sing you to your rest.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Creative Recycling

Everybody seems to be writing a memoir these days. I just finished one myself. And we have probably all heard memoir called The New Novel.

This is understandable of course. Memoirists focus on the most intense and dramatic and powerful periods of their lives. I did the same – told the story of my long battle with cancer and the people who battled with me – bless their souls.

Now that I have that out of my system I feel a longing to get fictional again. BUT – I still have lots of intense and dramatic and powerful personal material as yet untapped and unwritten.

There is the fraught and damaging childhood. There is the fraught and damaging first marriage followed by its fraught and damaging aftermath. I have fraughtness and damage enough to fill what might be a million pages. And so probably do all of us.

But what if we no longer wish to wallow? What if we do not even want to wade in to begin with? What if we love better the land of imagination and once upon a time?

Does that mean we have to jettison all of that great material? I say – absolutely not. Fraughtness and damage make very effective fiction after all.

But – does fictionalizing mean we are doomed to slog through the literal scenes of our most hideous history like damage déjà vu all over again? I say – absolutely not.

What it does mean is that we harvest the humanity of those heart-heavy happenings. We tap the trauma and drain the drama. Because – it is not the facts ma’am that matter most. It is the feelings.

All of that stuff we’ve been dumping on our shrinks for decades serves a powerful fictional purpose when recycled into emotional stories.

Get to the gut of it. Dredge up the details from deep down. Then tell the hell out of your best bad times in a tale that will knock the world off its feet with the power of the feelings imaginatively retold.

We all have an internal recycle bin filled to the brim and waiting to be written into the light. I certainly do. But – instead of wallowing – I’m in the mood to play. So let’s pretend.

Monday, May 14, 2012

So Social

I was at another wonderful writers’ gathering this weekend. Liberty State Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime joined forces in New Jersey for a day of learning – lunch – and laughter.

I most love these events because of the people. I am back home again in the east and that means reunions – reconnecting with writers I have not seen in years with hugs and happiness all around.

These are professional gatherings because we are all in the business of writing and publishing. And we are all trying to do that business well and better. These are social gatherings because we are a community.

I meet new folks along with the old and add them to my neighborhood of that community. You could say I am making contacts. The hugs and happiness tell me I am also making friends and always have been.

During the afternoon panel discussion the moderator asked the panelist authors this question. “How do you use social media to promote your books?”

Caridad Pineiro had good reason to seize the moment as a marketing opportunity. The Claimed – second novel in her already highly regarded Sin Hunters paranormal romance series after The Lost – is out this month from Grand Central Publishing.

But instead of pushing that book she made this response. “We need to remember that it is called social media not promo media.”

In other words – we need to stop selling selling selling in every other blog post/tweet/facebook update. I say – that is what hyperlinks to our websites are for. Selling is appropriate there.

Meanwhile in those other media we hug one another – with our humanity – with our humor – or as I do here with service to each other.

We need to believe that our books – or in my case my writing workshops – will sell as a byproduct.

We should also keep in mind that too much pushing – no matter how great the product – can push people away. And that is the opposite of what we want to accomplish.

Personally I prefer to hugs.

By the way – Caridad does her appropriate selling at www.caridad.com.

Monday, May 7, 2012

One Day at a Time - Tell Me About It

I gave a motivational talk last weekend at the New York City RWA Annual Brunch. I had obviously heard the words before. Yet a few sentences in I realized I needed to hear them again. I suspect you might need to hear them too. So here is just a piece of that speech.
The strongest strategy for success in pretty much anything is to get yourself on an I Can and I Will path. And the first thing you must do on that path is fight back fear.
You must struggle against fear as relentlessly as the heroine of your story struggles against the obstacles in her path – in order to survive and then go on to thrive in the end.

Fight back fear by changing your thinking about now and the future – especially in terms of your goals for yourself. Stop thinking of your goal as far away. Stop thinking of your progress as painfully slow.

That kind of thinking ends in discouragement. That kind of thinking drains your hope. You lose what Ralph Waldo Emerson called the Power of Enthusiasm. Never relinquish your Powerful Enthusiasm. It is the energy you need to fuel you through testing times.

See your goal as right here with you now. See yourself as progressing toward that goal today. If you manage any forward movement at all – even a small step or two – this is a successful day.

One day at a time – know what you need to accomplish that day. Make sure it is a realistic goal. Do not defeat yourself before you start by filling your plate impossibly full. Beware the tyranny of the To Do List. It is the monster you create for yourself all by yourself.

Set a reasonable realistic self-sensitive goal. Pursue that goal each day deliberately – with intention – without anxiety – without rushing. Haste really does make waste. Haste wastes your ability to experience your achievements and your ability to savor them as they happen.

At the end of the day if you don’t think you achieved your goal – Look again. What did you achieve? How are you not in the same place as yesterday?

Measure that achievement by asking yourself this question. Have I done what I undertook today as well as I could? Be sure to factor in your circumstances – the obstacles you had to overcome.

If you can answer – “Yes, I have done what I could as well as I could do it.” Then you have succeeded. You have reached your goal.

Think of each day as a jewel on the thread of your life – a jewel on the thread of your career. Place it artfully. Never underestimate its worth. And – Never forget to admire its beauty.

I cannot seem to stop needing to tell myself these things. Probably because I cannot seem to stop forgetting them. How about you?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Now for Something Completely Different

Hey guys – it’s springtime. Fresh is in the air. So I decided to put some fresh into my writing life as well. By doing something pretty much completely different from my established regimen – and writing simply for the joy of it.

I’ve been wanting to try this for a while. Over the winter months I nudged myself in the joy direction with writing prompts. Good move. Good motivation. But it didn’t last.

On my own I could not keep the you should voices from breaking through.

You should focus on the umpteenth revision of the memoir for your agent. You should spend your time on character research for the suspense novel you know you ought to write.

It was obvious that I needed a structure for my joy initiative or I would not initiate. My puritan ethic is apparently too powerful to allow much solo pleasure seeking.

So I signed up for a writing class with a teacher who is more about soul satisfaction than submissions. Her name is June Gould and she is exactly what I needed.

She gives assignments and I do them. What total fun. I have even – dare I admit it? – penned some poetry and loved every word of doing so.

She leads me places I might/would not otherwise go. She reads work by writers I might/would not otherwise encounter. She sends me off from that inspiring place toward my own tangents.

It is all very free – and very much unlike the writing goals I set myself in stone and guilt. Usually I am all about the goal and aiming for it like a buzz saw.

But now – in spring at new beginnings time – I have lifted my saw blade for a moment from the straight line path. I marvel at the life my words take on when left to seek a level on their own.

I highly recommend it – this respite from regimen for several hours each week in rebirth season. And perhaps a summer sojourn and autumn option also.

Who knows what windswept flights of freedom wintertime might bring?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wrong Idea About Ideas

The major misconception about story ideas has to do with what they can and cannot accomplish. Let me illustrate with a cocktail party scenario that goes something like this.

Author stands at edge of crowd to maximize observation potential. Since this is a savvy author, her glass contains sparkling water, diet cola or plain tonic with lime keeping the head clear in case anyone even remotely connected with publishing should appear and require sober impressing.

Fellow partier sidles over but is unfortunately anything but a publishing professional. Partier discovers that Author is in fact an author and suggests some variation on the following.

“I’ve got a terrific idea for a novel. Bestseller for sure. How’s about I tell you my idea – you write the story – then we split the take fifty-fifty?”

More than one misconception is in play here. First of all this non-writer underestimates the writing process. Famous sportswriter Red Smith once famously said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”

The party guy with the great story idea knows nothing about the bloodletting aspect of the writer’s journey. Worse yet – he does not understand that an idea is not a story.

An idea is only a kernel. That kernel may possess the potential to grow into the next Nora King Mary Higgins Grisham opus or it may not. Either way tons of nurture, strain, frustration, doubt and even bloodletting must be applied between planting and harvest.

A clever idea may be a jumping off place but without the sweat equity required the storyteller is in for a hard fall.

Not only non-writers are susceptible here. I have experienced myself the exhilaration of what I can only describe as a Technicolor idea strike. A story concept or maybe just a scene appears unexpectedly. Lightning in the mind reveals something entirely new and previously unimagined.

“This is it,” I cry out in creative ecstasy preferably where no one is listening. “This is the story I have to write.”

The problem is that I don’t really have a story. I only have an idea and an idea is only a beginning. A story – particularly in the commercial publishing arena – requires a plot with a beginning, middle and end.

At best my flash of inspiration will get me through the opening scene – maybe the first chapter. Without a lot more work the story tumbles downhill from there….

Any editor worth her blue pencil will see straight through the Technicolor bit to the lackluster follow-up. Even if she is impressed by the story start she’ll know there is no second act.

[Excerpted from my book No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript That Sells available at www.aliceorrseminars.net.]

Monday, April 16, 2012

Women Writers ReNEW

For me it was reentry into a beloved sisterhood I had almost given up as lost. There we were – hugging and kissing cheeks and telling each other how wonderful we look. Women do all of that when we are overjoyed to see one another.

We were not just a love fest however. We were also a convocation of women who write. A convocation that might easily have fallen apart – and nearly did – before this joyful moment could happen.

Instead we were together again at a gathering aptly titled ReNEW the Magic organized by Cynthia Fritts Stillwell the new executive director of the International Women’s Writing Guild along with her staff and Board of Directors.

The setting for this happy reunion and fresh start could hardly have been lovelier – the gracious Gilded Age mansion that houses the National Arts Club in Manhattan facing onto Gramercy Park where cherry blossoms bloomed and tulips waved in spring sunlight.

Please pardon my gush. I have been a member of IWWG – the Guild as many of us call it – since 1978 when I attended my first Guild summer conference at Skidmore College which also happened to be the first writers’ gathering I had ever attended anywhere.

Right there in public – among strangers no less – I revealed with much trepidation my deep desire to write. I even admitted my fear that I lacked sufficient imagination to fulfill this desire. I was embraced and encouraged in return and that encouragement made all the difference.

Everything that has happened to me since professionally was set in motion that sultry summer as sisters I had not known I needed set my feet on the path I was meant to pursue.

My travels in the years from then to now have taken many turnings and my Guild sisters have been with me through every one – as I have been with them. We are a community and we clasp each other close even as we rush or stumble toward our private goals.

Recently the Guild danced along a precipice as can happen periodically with organizations. Strong hands and stubborn hearts prevented it – and us – from tumbling over. This past weekend across from sunny Gramercy Park a gathering of women who write reaped the benefits of that struggle.

I am profoundly grateful to have been among them. A precious piece of community was ReNEWed and my own writer’s soul was refreshed.

I invite you to join me and my IWWG sisters to be similarly renewed refreshed embraced and encouraged as we step together into a newly Guilded Age. Find out more at www.iwwg.org. You will glad you did.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Course Correction Called For

One of my sayings I’m always saying is this – Persist Till You Prevail.

I have been working on a memoir for what feels like longer than it took the story itself to happen. The duration of this project has nothing to do with inadequate work ethic or lack of belief in my subject matter.

The duration of this project is all about course corrections.

Originally I was writing the story of my cancer experience and the many generous people who carried me – sometimes literally – from the dark center of my illness to a bright place on the other side.

The first two course corrections had to do with the title. I barely remember the early options – mostly because they were hardly memorable. Until I finally hit the mark. Lifted to the Light: A Story of Struggle and Kindness. That not only sounded right. It felt right too.

Less comfortable was the correction that came after an editor in the know from a publisher in the mainstream offered her altered course suggestion. Too many cancer books out there, she said. She liked the voice and the storytelling and wanted to see more of those – but different.

Which shifted my course to writing a lifelong tale of being lifted by caring souls again and again. Unfortunately that was not really the story I had to tell. So – though I’ve had considerable experience with writing to spec – this particular correction led pretty much nowhere.

Back I went to the original story – what I hoped was an inspiring account of struggling through my toughest life challenge so far. With its own direction corrected this time toward the changes wrought upon the character named “I” at the center of the scenario.

BUT – it was still a cancer story and mainstream publishing was still not in the market for those. Even though my agent pronounced the writing “exquisite” and set my writer’s heart pitter-pattering all the way to the next course change.

Digital Publishing! It turns out that this had been my preferred course from the start – especially if mine is in fact a niche story. E-pub has a way of aiming at niche targets and finding them.

The point being that all of this flexibility and course correcting could have turned me into a pretzel – and occasionally did. But more important it twisted my work in a direction that just might work for my work and for me.

I am now told that my next course must be a crash course in internet marketing. So here I go into pretzel mode again – Persisting Till I Prevail.

Monday, April 2, 2012

When World Life & Writing Life Collide

Our house went on the market today. Not the one we live in now. That would be too close at hand manageable. The house on sale is clear across the continent. Out of my sight. Beyond my reach. Way past my control.

This is crazy making to the max for me. There is no way I can escape being distracted – also to the max. Yet I am a writer with expectations to fulfill. What am I to do?

The most obvious choice would be to blow the writing off hard enough to push it as far away as my property with the For Sale sign in the yard.

“Life has intruded,” I could exclaim. “Life is bulldozing me under mounds of anxiety at the moment.”

Everyone would understand and empathize with that – especially my writing colleagues. But abandonment would not be the right choice for me – not even the choice that would make me less anxious at this or any anxious time. There are other alternatives for my writerly soul.

I could remind myself that struggle is always a source of great writing material. Accordingly I would write down everything I am feeling as my circumstances play mash-up with my mind and metabolism and I struggle to prevail.

I would not journal the experience – not enough story juice that way. I would dramatize the scene in all its vividness and every sensual detail.

The scent of the air wafting through the window as I hyperventilate. The color I see through my eyelids as I squeeze them shut. The sound of the world as it has the nerve to spin obliviously on. And always the taste of fear – for once not described as metallic.

For dialog I would record the conversations with myself – with my demons – with my wishes – with my higher power.

Today I chose a less colorful alternative. I worked on something that required little original thinking or the stamina originality demands. Most of the original thinking had already been done. I revised something in need of revision.

Each avenue leads in the same direction. Through the predicament – into the writing – out the other side with something accomplished along the way. World and writing collide and fuse and release energy in the form of productivity.

Now if somebody would only buy my house.

Monday, March 12, 2012

In Praise of Insanity -- Writer Style

A friend told me about a novel she’s reading where the heroine – who happens to be a book editor – comments that all writers are crazy.

I remember hearing variations on that remark back in my own book editor days. When I began on that side of the business and was still trying to fit in I kept my mouth shut on those occasions. Further on in I had a stock response.

“I’m a writer and I’m crazy for sure.”

At first that was just a comeback accompanied by an unbalanced leer. Then it became a point of pride. Eventually I grew to recognize it as a declaration of necessity. How could any of us do this thing from the middle lane of the mental road?

Our best work is accomplished in an altered state. Sometimes we occupy the consciousness and life specifics of a being not ourselves – human or otherwise. Always we are lifted out of what non-writers consider the reality of daily time and space.

Also – many of us tend toward the emotional extremes of experience at least part of the time. That is only a bad idea when we forget to write down the details and dialogue afterward.

To be fair to those who doubt the stability of a writer’s wits – it’s tough for a civilian to understand that we sometimes do our work by staring blank faced at the wall. Such are the delights of being divinely deranged.

There is another side however to this shiny coin. And that’s the reason I resent editorial comments about authorial madness. It is the editor’s world after all that dominates the non-shiny side.

If anything can drive anybody to distraction – and not in a good way – that thing is the publishing business. I won’t attempt to list the crazy-making scenarios running rampant there. I would have to write a book length post and then some.

Suffice to say this. Any setup that renders an adult professional pretty much powerless over her work life pretty much most of the time is unhinging to the max.

All of us who wander the winding byways of the writers’ community get this basic truth. Enduring publishing world crap is the price we pay for admission to the ya-ya scribblerhood. Mostly we wade through and scribble on and love what we do anyway.

What could be more lunatic than that? Or what could be more lusciously sane?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Not Quite Phone Sex - But Almost

Are your phone contacts seducing others to the cause of your career? They should be.

The phone – especially the cell – has become so constant in our lives that we are too comfortable with it too much of the time. We think we can reveal ourselves as we are to anyone in the midst of whatever moment the ringtone may interrupt.

That may be okay with a BFF. Even with a BFFN – best friend for now. It is not okay with any contact having anything to do with business. And how many contacts have nothing at all to do with business these days?

Many of our FF’s or FFN’s are writers after all. Conduits for carrying our message and our image to the community of our peers across multiple media platforms.

Let’s stick to the phone zone for now. And I’m not just talking about scripting calls to publishing pros. Anybody not outlining contacts with agents and editors in writing in advance is still at communications kindergarten.

You get what you want by knowing what you want and articulating accurately with no spasms of foot-in-mouth disease to intervene between you and your purpose. So script by all means. And don’t forget to leave space for responses between your lines.

That covers the verbal aspect – just the words ma’am. What about the attitude aspect? The backdrop against which your words are played. An out of phase stage set can undermine the most carefully crafted script.

Put together a procedure for shaping up before speaking out that will work in mid-chat as well. First the common sense stuff. What turns folks tone deaf to your tune?

How about the whiney wimp? Or a litany of losses? Or flares of fury? Or continual complaining? I have been guilty of all of these at one time or other. It is understatement to say that none proved positively productive.

Before you touch a screen or tap a button or take a bite with your blue tooth. Position yourself in the mind and mood frame that will complement your communication – which is more often than not upbeat to a fault.

The quick trick for me is deep breathing. Just a few slow deep ones and there I am. A couple more come in handy when the conversation calls for calming.

What works for you? What vaults you toward your voice with a smile? Dance steps at the desk? Telling yourself a joke or two? Staring at a photo of somebody you love? Find it. Try it. Tweak till you get it right.

Then start seducing. They’ll be so hot to hear what you have to say – your phone may melt.