Write Despite

The write-20-minutes-a-day-for-365-days-come-hell-or-high-water challenge

Deep in the Rewrite Trenches: A Little Inspiration from Author Richard Bausch

the-rewright-40x27-2015From Karen:

So I’m neck-deep in the third rewrite of my new novel. How’s it going? Slowly, occasionally painfully, and all I want is to be done with it. I’m fighting my usual impulse to speed ahead, and instead slow down and stay in the scene. I’m winning the battle—some of the time.

Ever been there? It’s not that I don’t like the story. I do, very much., I’m just not convinced that my skills aren’t doing it justice. And then there’s the old “Just because I like it, doesn’t mean anyone else will.”

At times like this, I like to hop onto the Facebook feed of my old MFA writing professor Richard Bausch. A master himself, Dick is also honest about how hard this is, and he doesn’t mince words. He sets you straight, in the best possible way. All these years later, I want to say, “Thank you, Dick. Your influence is still resonating and more important than ever.”

Check out some of Richard Bausch’s rewrite advice:

“In revision, try not to think of the long outcome much. Just concentrate on this morning’s work. Just be faithful to that. Try to be as good as you can be without straining it: “This morning, I’m just going to mess with this scene. See if I can get it right, or clearer, or sharper. I’m only going to think about that. And when I’ve put in my two hours, I’m going to forget about it and enjoy things without reference to the work. The work’s done for the day. And tomorrow, I’ll come at it fresh. I don’t have to write the whole thing in one morning, so I won’t think about the whole thing. Just this. This here, this morning’s work.”

“About the heavy doubt: it’s normal; it’s the territory, the province, the wallpaper in what Jim Dickey called the cave of making. It is your talent itself that produces it. So write through it. Do the work. If you let it stop you, if you let it make you hesitate, you’re making the first and most elemental mistake, and you’re acting like a dabbler, an amateur. This day’s work. Each day.”

 “Be patient, yes, and how hard that is, especially when it’s yourself with whom you have to be patient. It’s very hard, of course. But nobody ever said it would be easy. And one of the traps we fall into is thinking too much about the result–whatever we imagine or hope that might be. The real thing happening is that you are using your time in a way that answers you deep, no matter what fits it gives you, and it always feels better to have worked in a given day, no matter how badly the work seemed to go or how hard it was. To engage in the activity at all is to do something sustaining; and in fact it gives meaning to everything else. That’s why I keep repeating the mantra: this day’s work. Just this day’s work. Did I work today. If the answer’s yes, no other questions. It’s enough. Try to forget about it and go have fun–enjoy that most delicious feeling of wasting time when you have used it well earlier.”

“Someone told you somewhere, or inadvertently communicated to you sometime, that it would get easier? It gets harder, because you know more. Instead of putting down the first or second line that occurs to you IN REVISION, you think of fifty-five others that each have their advantages and disadvantages, and you start really getting down into the deeps of it, including what it is you are seeking in terms that have nothing to do with the STORY: you want others to know how deeply sympathetic you are to human troubles; you want others to have a sense of the sorrows you carry around like everyone else; you want others to know how much you know; you want others–even this–to see what you can do with a sentence, with your extensive vocabulary and your gift for metaphorical speech–and all of that has to be subordinated to the demands of the STORY that you are not even, quite yet, sure of. No, it will not get easier–its complications will change away from the ones you had when you were new; but these complications multiply, and exacerbate themselves as you grow. What you can do, simply, is accept this, and do the work. Even when it seems completely closed to you. Accept it as your destiny as an artist and go on with it. You’re not experiencing anything that everyone else hasn’t also experienced. Remember Joseph Conrad, having his wife lock him in a room and then shouting “Let me out. I’m a fraud. I never could do this.” And he was working on his twelfth novel.”

“I think that no matter how hard it is and no matter how difficult the subject, and no matter how dark your vision, writing a novel is always an act of optimism, even of faith–a generous expansion of one’s being toward something outside the self, and by definition, then, a giving forth for others of your kind. Inherently beautiful and valuable as an occupation, even if it takes years, and, yes, even if no one ever sees it. And, too, even if it is destined to be forgotten, to disappear. Wright Morris: two National Book Awards, one as a photographer, sixteen novels. Gone. Vance Bourjaily, Thomas Williams, William Goyen, George Garrett–one can’t find the books. And they were such wonderful writers. So, do the work for itself. And fuck all else. Make the record, and stop worrying about your place in the scheme of things literary.”

“I used to have terrible anxiety before I’d start a session of work–this was after Iowa, and I was thirty and should have known better. I’d pace and sigh and get a stomach ache, afraid it wouldn’t go well. Such a waste of energy, and what a lot of hell I put myself through, like some atavist cowering at a shape in the clouds. I should’ve been saying prayers of gratitude for the chance to fail my way toward something beyond me. Just for the happy fact that I had this work to do, and a place to pursue it, the need to try. I should’ve been celebrating that.”

A Launch to Remember

From Cathy:

Happy new year to all!

Hope you had a great holiday, did a lot of eating and sleeping and partying—and maybe even got a little writing done in between.

For me, December wasn’t just marked by the arrival of the Big Guy, but also the long-awaited release and launch of my novel A Hundred Weddings. Karen joined me at the launch—devoted friend that she is—and as I said when I took the stage (which is NOT something I ever look forward to doing), it felt like I was at my own wedding. Friends and family and so many people I loved were there at the uber-cool Epicure Cafe, plus a lot of new faces too. It was straight-up fun and cool, and a night I’ll always remember. Here are a few pictures.

Since then I’ve had the amazing experience of hearing from people who’ve read the book. I can’t explain how great it feels to get a call or text or email from someone who just finished it and had to tell me how much they enjoyed it. (Of course, they’re not going to call and tell me they hated it, but you get the point.)

By the way, if you have read A Hundred Weddings and you did enjoy it, would you please pop over to Amazon and leave a quick review for me?

hearthside-booksIf you happen to live in or near Bluefield, Virginia, my hometown, you can grab a copy from lovely Hearthside Books at 1603 Bland Street, which was kind enough to put a couple on the shelves for me. They’ve now announced they’re closing and are having a 25% off storewide sale, so you can snag it for even less. But hurry!

That’s it for now. Hope you all have a year filled with creation and brimming with ideas and fun.

Write well, everyone!

—Cathy

 

 

What’s coming up? Click HERE

From Cathy:

Hi all! Just a quick post with a few updates.

a-hundred-weddings-final-coverMy novel A Hundred Weddings will be released in paperback the day after tomorrow, on December 15. You can pre-order it here. (Kindle version is already available here.)

Goodreads is now sponsoring a giveaway of six free, signed copies. You can enter that here.

Launch party is this Friday, December 16, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Epicure Café in Fairfax, VA. Copies of the book will be available for purchase (free drink ticket if you buy one)! Incidentally, if you plan to attend and haven’t yet RSVP’d, please leave a message in the comments here, or email us at writedespite20@gmail.com.

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I think that’s it for now. As always, thanks so much for your continued interest in and support of my work. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday. Write well, everyone!

—Cathy

Kirkus Reviews Takes Note

-From Karen:

Kudos to Write Despite contributor Diane Bonavist. Her new novel Purged By Fire received a pretty nice write-up in Kirkus Reviews!

Check it out.

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The long and winding road to publication… at last

From Karen:

Publishing a book is a little like following that famed “Yellow Brick Road.” Look out for witches and flying monkeys. Both seem to abound in this business. But just like Dorothy, determined writers push on. Diane Bonavist is one.

Diane’s new novel Purged By Fire came into print after years of near misses and disappointing rejection–making Diane a true survivor in very good company. Please welcome her to Write Despite.

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I wanted to write a novel, but after three years of trying on my own, I felt it was time to find other writers who also wanted to figure out how it is done. At an adult ed course I met my future writing group. We were honest but kind and most important we produced our first novels.

In 1994, the group and I decided my Medieval fiction was ready for submission. I was thrilled when I quickly found an enthusiastic agent who boosted my confidence; unfortunately she couldn’t conjure a publisher for my book.

Six years later my novel found another remarkable New York agent who also loved it. With changes that he suggested, the next version hit the publishing world and sadly was again declined. Some years later, more of the same—rewrite, new agent, title, rejection.

During this time, I wrote many technical manuals, two more novels, short stories, and became editor of Tiferet Journal. I continued to write, yet the unease of unfinished business never left me. And though I was happy to spend time in the new pieces I wrote, they didn’t mean to me what my 13th century novel did; it was the book of my heart.

To evoke the stamina and resilience it takes to write, I’ve got to love my characters to death and delirium. The thought of my Medieval people never telling their story, never going out into the world, made me bereft.

A few years ago I decided to do one more revision and instead of an agent, I queried small presses where they usually deal directly with the author. I looked for publishers who knew my subject and found Bagwyn Books, the fiction division of The Arizona Center for Renaissance and Medieval Studies. And there I finally found a publisher who ‘got’ my story and was pleased to publish it.

Yes, it’s a cliché to say ‘never give up,’ but I’m so glad I didn’t. My path to publication is testament to listening instead to the voice inside that says, ‘Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to write.’

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Events & Dates & Things

–From CathySo many weddings, so little stomach for them.

Hi all! Just a quick post to wish you well and look in on you after this wild ride of an election. Everyone okay out there? Taking care of yourselves and each other?

Good, just checking.

So I had a great time reading at George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival on September 30. Due to my switch in publishers, I was only able to hand out these nifty little “save the date” bookmarks instead of actual books.

Cathy Cruise, Fall for the BookBut it was fun being able to read a chapter and to see friends, colleagues, and family all together in the same room.

A Hundred Weddings is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The e-book comes out December 1, and the print book December 15.

Cathy Cruise, Fall for the BookThe book launch is scheduled at Epicure Cafe in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday, December 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. If you’re in the area, please stop by to say hi or introduce yourself!

I’ll be posting additional dates and announcements on my websiteFacebook page, and on Twitter.

As always, many, many thanks for your continued interest and support. Wishing you all a great holiday season, starting with a very happy turkey day.

Write well, everyone!

–Cathy

 

From Limbo to Publication

From Karen:

We’re giving our heartiest congratulations to first-time novelist Magdalena Waz whose novel, Return on Investment, won the Fiction Attic Press Debut Novel Contest this year. Fiction Attic, headed by founder Michelle Richmond, is publishing some of the most interesting new fiction out there today.

Magdalena’s smart new novel is a great example. Magdalena’s work has also appeared in Threadcount, The Collagist, and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. She is currently the Features Editor at Bushwick Daily.

Here, she discussed the uncertain journey to publication and the stuff you learn along the way.

Please welcome Magdalena to Write Despite.

return-on-investment-red-coverEvery manuscript has a different path to publication, and every writer has a slightly different battle to fight when it comes to choosing one or choosing to take any at all. Writing Return on Investment was far easier than coming to terms with the fact that it was getting published. This was the first novel attempt I had actually completed and the first time I had committed to some kind of story arc for more than 20 pages.

Some of these chapters are three and a half years old; some are two years old. Some of them have been edited four to five times and drastically; others have been tweaked in small ways that likely only matter to me. I could have lived in that limbo-y “it’s not quite done yet” stage for years.

But I was done with grad school, working odd jobs, having trouble focusing on new and old projects alike. The only logical solution at the time was to submit any writing and fill those free hours with something that felt like action.

Of course, anyone who has submitted stories, poems, or manuscripts to contests or journals knows how little action there really is. I was addicted to those short moments of exhilaration: the moment when I hit submit, and the moment when I saw an email notification from Submittable.

I had sent in my manuscript to Fiction Attic’s contest on a whim one summer soon after signing up for a weekly newsletter called “Sapling” which curates a short selection of submission opportunities, contests, and interviews with editors and publishers (I highly recommend it).

I found out over Thanksgiving weekend. I was admiring my mom’s new dining room table when I got the notification, and I read the email multiple times before I shared it. And then for months I did not believe it was real. There were whole days where the limbo voice woke up somewhere in me and insisted I was rushing, that I hadn’t sat on the manuscript for long enough, that I hadn’t written the whole story.

But this process has been very informative. This particular manuscript’s path to publication taught me that I am happiest when I am sharing what I write. Giving my writing a public life is what motivates me to write more. Without feedback in a workshop, I would have never finished the manuscript in the first place, and without taking the plunge and submitting, I would have never figured out what I need to do in order to keep writing.

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A Hundred Weddings, and a Few Missteps

—From Cathy

First, I’m thrilled to announce that my book, A Hundred Weddings, will be released December 1, 2016!

a-hundred-weddings-final-coverCue the band. Let the angels sing.

Second, what a trip this has been.

This book had been set for release September 21 and was already set for pre-order on Amazon. Then, on September 8, my publisher suddenly closed doors.

Cue shock, devastation, panic, and finally a mad scramble to find a new publisher.

Now, after a whole bunch of cover designs and redesigns, one professional edit, numerous thorough proofings, and a big group of beta readers, it’s finally happening.  I’m pleased to say I’ve signed on with Possibilities Publishing, a company right here in my own backyard, and welcome the chance to move forward with them.

I even get to keep the first (and so far only) event I had scheduled:

I’ll be reading at George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival this Friday, September 30, at 2 p.m. If you’re in the area, please stop by the Sandy Spring Bank tent, just outside the Johnson Center. Hoping the weather holds!

I’ll likely have a launch here in Northern Virginia sometime in December. Please stay tuned!

And if you get a chance, please “like” my author Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter, @CathyCruise1, and check out my Goodreads page.

Thanks for making this journey with me. Write well, everyone!

 

 

 

 

Q&A with Literary Mama Fiction Editor Colleen Kearney Rich

ColleenColleen Kearney Rich serves as fiction editor for the online journal Literary Mama, a monthly publication focused on motherhood. A seasoned writer as well, Colleen has been on both sides of the publishing desk, and has plenty of insights about how literary journals work, what they’re looking for, and how hard it can be to reject writers. She’s a founding editor of the literary magazine So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, and her writing has been published in the Washington Post, Phoebe, Virginia Tech magazine, LiveScience, Minerva Rising, Smokelong Quarterly, and the anthology Amazing Graces: Yet Another Collection of Fiction by Washington Area Women, among others. Please welcome Colleen to Write Despite!

When did you begin working as fiction editor at Literary Mama and what are your duties there?

I started working as a fiction editor in December. Prior to that I was a book reviews editor for almost three years. All the departments have multiple editors. My co-editor Suzanne Kamata lives in Japan, but we share a mailbox.

We both read the submissions that come in. If we like something, we send it to the other editor. Sometimes it is an immediate thumbs up. Other times we might have suggestions for the writer. When it is ready to move forward, we have to get approval from two senior editors. They sometimes also have suggestions. Then the stories go into the site. We also have an editorial assistant who proofreads everything before it goes live.

How much time does it take each week, and how hard is it to fit that into your schedule?

It varies. Three or four hours a week at the most. Sometimes I would rather just read a bunch at one time and get something done so those days are longer.

Why did you want to be a part of this journal?

When my kids were younger, I had submitted a few nonfiction pieces to the journal. At first I received some thoughtful rejections. Then I got an acceptance. I worked with the Shari MacDonald Strong, one of the founding editors. It was such an amazing experience, and Shari helped make my essay so much stronger. Then I saw an ad online about openings at Literary Mama. When I was in graduate school, I helped start the feminist journal So To Speak. I really enjoyed doing that kind of work and missed it. Literary Mama seemed like a good fit for me, and I was so happy when they offered me the book review editor job.

Obviously you look for writing centered on motherhood, but what else do you look for in a good piece of fiction?

I look for a writer trying to do something a little different in the storytelling or offer a new perspective. Voice is important too. Because we are an online journal, length is a factor. I think shorter pieces work better and seem to have more impact.

What immediately turns you off in a manuscript?

False notes.

Overall, how do you feel about the quality of submissions you receive?

I’m always impressed with the quality of writing out there, and the number of women trying to juggle families and creative pursuits.

Any big surprises/challenges since you started the job?

Yes, I’ve been surprised at how hard it is to send rejections. Some pieces are obviously not for us so that is easy. But the ones that are based on personal experience, that’s hard. I am always touched by what they’ve experienced—and sometimes it is tragic—and that they’ve chosen to, sometimes courageously, put words to that experience and share it. How do you judge that? How do you say no to that? That’s the biggest challenge for me.

What type of writing do you do yourself?

I am a magazine editor by day in real life. I edit the university magazine of George Mason University. In my off hours I write fiction. I enjoy writing flash because of the brevity of it, and I’ve dabbled a bit with screenwriting. I’ve also written two novels that I work on in fits and starts.

Do you feel your own writing informs what you select for the journal?

I’m sure it does it some way, but I am also a big reader. I think that has more of an effect on me. I love a good story and a clever approach to narrative.

What are you working on now?

I committed to finishing one of my novels this year. Finish to the point that I would be able to shop it around.

Summer Reading

summer-reading-006Summertime and the reading is good this year. We’ve selected our seasonal picks, and will surely be spotted toting them on vacation and to neighborhood parks. Here’s what we’ve chosen:

 From Karen:

My extremely well read sister has shamed me into reading Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Okay, there are a few holes in my education. This is one I’m going to fill.

Then I’m onto two new novels that I can’t want to get my hands on. They’re from two of my favorite contemporary authors.

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From Cathy:

My book group never fails to steer me toward books I certainly wouldn’t choose for myself, and usually end up glad to have read. The one I’m reading now is no exception. Even though I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, Missing Man, about a spy who disappeared in Iran, grabbed me from the start. I’ll pass it along to the hubby too.

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After that somber read, I’ll need a pick-me-up. And my all-time favorite, Anne Tyler, is just the ticket with her latest–a modern-day version of Taming of the Shrew, coming out on June 21:

vinegar girl

 

 

 

 

 

What are YOU reading on the deck, at the pool, by the ocean? We need more ideas. Please leave us a comment and share your summer reading picks! (By the way, no need to insert your name or email address when you comment. Just type and hit Post.)

 

 

 

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