Write Despite

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

Archive for the tag “karen guzman”

Step-by-Step

–From Karen:

Cathy has been basking in glory lately, what with her new novel, all her cool readings and interviews, not to mention her latest score—a flash fiction honorable mention in the acclaimed Glimmertrain magazine.

I could be envious, if I had the time.

But slogging my way through the middle of a comprehensive novel manuscript rewrite—yes, line-by-line, adding new scenes, reworking a viewpoint, the whole shebang—has me just a tad too occupied.

I’m making steady, if slow, progress, but I’m not complaining. My mantra these days: one foot in front of the other—make each scene, and each bit of connective narrative glue, as  compelling as possible.

Of course, I am taking some breaks. My family recently spent a weekend hiking in New Hampshire’s gorgeous White Mountains, where I stumbled (yes sometimes literally) upon a nifty rewrite metaphor: the steep, boulder-strewn trail we climbed.

Okay, it’s a little corny, but also kind of apt, and you can’t beat the scenery.

Our hiking route was the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which winds up the infamous and awesome Mount Washington. Here are a few milestone markers that—when you’re eyeball deep in a big rewrite—resonate both on and off the trail.

 

gotta start

Chapter One, get moving. The Mountain—like the last page—won’t come to you.

 

2 keep going

Picking up speed, but pace yourself. One scene at a time.

 

3. early moments of inspiration

Moments of early inspiration.

 

4. gaining altitude

Look out for those rocky patches, and there are a lot of them.

 

5. uphill climb

This is called an uphill climb, dig deep and keep pushing.

 

6. a rest

Save your file, time for a coffee break. God bless the team that pitched these shelters along the mountain trail.

 

7. the end in sight

The end is in sight. Your feet are sore and your legs ache, but there’s no way you’re quitting now.

 

the end

The end: A view worth climbing for. The manuscript’s ending? I’ll let you know when I get there.

 

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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.”

Fall for the Book Festival

If you find yourself in the metro D.C. area next weekend, please stop by for my reading at the Fall for the Book Festival. It’s a week-long fest hosted by my MFA alma mater, George Mason University. I’m reading at 1:30 on Saturday, Oct. 3, with two fellow alumni. All details on the Festival’s site.

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Cathy, also a GMU alum, will be on hand. We were roommates for two-and-a-half years, and now we’re both hoping to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones.

Check out this stellar lineup of participants.

Hope to see you there!

— Karen

Multiple Points of What-Am-I-Doing

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Okay, so who told me to write a novel with multiple, third-person points of view? Three, to be exact. I’ve never attempted multiple viewpoints. It’s a whole new narrative world.

While I’m enjoying the separate viewpoints, I’m not so sure I’m merging them in a very, um, skillful way. But that’s what revision is for, right?

I’d forgotten what it’s like to be smack in the middle of a first draft—when the thing is unfolding, but you don’t know where it’s taking you. First drafts are a hot mess—as the current lingo goes—an untamed rush of great flailing promise, over abundance and poor judgment. I’ll worry about reigning it in later.

When I’m feeling especially lost, though, I recall the great novelist E.L. Doctorow’s words on first drafts. Doctorow passed away this month at the age of 84. R.I.P.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

–Keep the faith, friends,

Karen

The Camera Doesn’t Lie

From Karen:

Okay, so these aren’t the most flattering photos, but they are pretty darn funny.

They were shot during my reading and signing at Tolland Public Library in Connecticut last week.  Many thanks to Kate Farrish for organizing.

It was a lovely event, lots of nice readers (phew) and a lively discussion. Those of you contemplating your first reading/signing events should know this: People are really nice at these things. No kidding. They’re there because they’re interested in writing and stories…and in your work! Many know how difficult the process is and admire your persistence and dedication.

The audience also seems to know when you’re bluffing and when you’re speaking from the heart. I received a few comments afterwards on how much audience members appreciated my warm and candid comments. THAT was nice to hear.

Questions I received touched on my writing process, how I got the idea for this book, what I’m working on now (a new novel) and how tough it is to break into publishing today. I answered as best I could, no whitewashing, just telling it like is. And that was the most fun of all.

I’ve added captions to these photos, illustrating a little—just a little—of what was running through my mind…

Will anyone show up?

Will anyone show up?

Hope the hands make me look like I know what I'm talking about.

Hope the hands make me look like I know what I’m talking about.

They're nodding and smiling. Maybe I should say that again.

They’re nodding and smiling. Maybe I should say that again.

You're going to give me money?

You’re going to give me money?

Author, Author!

From Cathy

Last week I had the pleasure of attending two literary events celebrating new books by people I’m proud to call friends. They are both exceptional writers, and I was honored to have been asked to review at least parts of both of their books while they were being written. I’m even mentioned in their acknowledgements, which is so very sweet. (Although when I pointed this out to my teenage son, his only comment was, “But you realize the goal is to get your name on the front of the book, Mom, not in the back.” Alas, as they say, always an editor, never an author.)

Jenny Jackson, editor at Knopf and Doubleday, and author Katherine Heiny

Jenny Jackson, editor at Knopf and Doubleday, and author Katherine Heiny

In any case, Sunday, February 8 was the launch of Katherine Heiny’s Single, Carefree, Mellow at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC.

Katherine read from the story that hurled her into the literary world, “How to Give the Wrong Impression,” which was published in the New Yorker when she was only 25. After the reading, her editor, Jenny Jackson from Knopf/Doubleday, interviewed Katherine, asking all the key questions about her journey to publication, her work habits, her inspirations and roadblocks. It was an exciting, enlightening evening, and I was so glad to be a part of it.

book group

Book group loves Bright Coin Moon! That’s Kirsten on the far right.

Monday night I met with my beloved book group of a dozen years to gush over author Kirsten Lopresti’s young adult novel, Bright Coin Moon. We all agreed we were more than impressed by this gem of a book–lost in it to the point that we forgot it was written by one who actually walks among us, who lives close enough and is accessible enough to join us for salads and tequila chicken fettuccine at California Pizza Kitchen, and sign our books and answer our questions.

So add to these two books Karen Guzman’s lovely Homing Instincts, and you could say people are getting published all around me.

Am I happy for them?

Thrilled beyond words.

Am I jealous?

Yeah. A bit at least.

Am I feeling like I should throw in the towel because I haven’t accomplished this yet?

Quite the opposite.

Seeing that this can–and does–happen to wonderful, talented, deserving people is nothing short of…well, I would say, miraculous. But it’s more like a push from behind–or a grasp of the hand and a yank forward.

I’m not saying I’m as good a writer as them. I’m saying if I work hard I can be deserving of publication. I’m saying I shouldn’t expect it to not happen, but to just be bold enough to believe it might.

Scratch that.

Believe it will.

I’m trying. I hope one day to get there. I hope that for all of us.

Write well, everyone, and know that the promise of your words finding their way into the world is more than conceivable. If you’re putting in the work–every day–I have to believe it’s even pretty damned possible.

Want to Sell Your Book? Read on…

By Karen Guzman

Please settle back for a very informative interview with Christina Hamlett. It’s the truly useful kind of information we all need. Christina has an awful lot of experience in the wilds of publishing. She’s eager to share what she knows and give new writers a leg up. I know. Christina was kind enough to feature my debut novel on her You Read It Here First blog.

A former actress and theater director, Christina is an award-winning author and media relations expert whose credits to date include 31 books, 157 stage plays, 5 optioned feature films and squillions of articles and interviews that appear online and in trade publications throughout the world.

She is also a script consultant for the film business (which means she stops a lot of really bad movies from coming to theaters near you) and a professional ghostwriter (which does not mean she talks to dead people).

Learn more about Christina’s work and hook up with her on her various platforms:

www.authorhamlett.com

www.mediamagnetism.org

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christina-Hamlett/155417084517326

Please welcome Christina to Write Despite.

Christina and Chief Canine Officer Lucy

Christina and Chief Canine Officer Lucy

1. What advice can you offer new writers looking for markets to sell their work?
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, it’s critical to establish yourself as an expert in your field. To do this, you need to embrace an enthusiastic mindset to write articles, compose blogs, teach workshops, participate in chat rooms, utilize social media, write reviews, and endear yourself to the media by being the entertaining, informative and dependable guest they’ll want to invite back time and again. The more visibility you can generate for your work, the more “name recognition” for your prospective readers and, subsequently, the more trust they will have in your brand. Freelance markets abound these days for not only getting your work seen but also getting paid. Some of my favorite resources are Hope Clark’s Funds for WritersWorldwide Freelance, Where Writers Win, My Perfect Pitch, Authors Publish Magazine, Freedom With Writing, and Wow! Women on Writing.

A cautionary note about the plethora of content mills out there: don’t devalue yourself. A site that pays $25 for a 500 word article is only a viable option if you can actually compose that entire article in an hour or less. If it’s going to take you time to do research, rewrite, edit and potentially get it sent back for revision, your pay comes out to about $.10 an hour. Seriously. You’re worth much more than that.

 2. What are some of the biggest publishing mistakes you see new writers making?

  • Not understanding who their target audience is.
  • Not putting any thought into their marketing platform.
  • Telling an agent or publisher, “My book is the next Hunger Games.”
  • Telling an agent or publisher, “Everyone says my book would make a great movie.”
  • Not reading dialogue aloud to see if it sounds doofy.
  • Not doing sufficient research.
  • Not doing sufficient proofreading.
  • Sending more than an agent or publisher has specifically requested.
  • Sending an unsolicited manuscript as an email attachment.
  • Starting a story in the wrong place.
  • Writing a story without a compelling or sustainable conflict.
  • Not listening to agent, editor or publisher feedback.
  • Believing that a book can only be validated as “real” if published traditionally.

I think the worst one, though, is whenever I hear a defeatist author say, “Well, I guess if I can’t sell my book to a traditional house, I’ll have to self-publish.” I’m reminded of a homely classmate in elementary school who told her daughter, “Well, I guess if no one wants to marry you, you can always go become a nun.”

3. How much of the burden to sell a book is on the writer these days? It seems like publishers want you to already have your market established before they’ll touch you.

Like any other industry in this woefully drekky economy, publishers across the country have downsized and their marketing departments are typically the first to get outsourced. Rarely these days will a publisher take on a fledgling writer unless that writer is already creating a buzz for his/her work and demonstrating a willingness to work hard and promote it. In turn, this has given rise to the popularity of self-publishing in which authors not only have more control of their own intellectual property but they’ll also be working just as much as they’d be expected to for a traditional publisher. The difference is that self-publishing will get them 70+% royalty vs. 8-12%. Another consideration is that unless a book really flies off the charts, the average shelf-life for a new title at a brick and mortar bookstore is 2-6 weeks (as opposed to indefinitely in cyberspace), and 30% of paperbacks and hardcovers end up in landfills. It should also be noted that agents and publishers are sometimes reluctant to take on someone who has only written one book and has no immediate plans to write another one. That said, you not only have to have that first book completed but also be a whirling dervish about fleshing out ideas for multiple works thereafter.

4. What are some innovative ways writers can get the word out about the projects?

I love this question! And I just happen to have all sorts of creative ways to accomplish this. Try these for starters:

  • Suppose you’ve written a murder mystery that unfolds at a winery. Instead of sitting at a table in a bookstore and hoping someone will walk by and notice you, create an event wherein you schedule a reading or a talk at an area winery. Customers who buy an autographed copy of your book are then entitled to a modest discount on their wine purchase. Since they were already on the premises to buy a bottle or two, half your work of selling is done before you even start talking.
  • For cookbook authors, do a cooking demonstration at a gourmet shop that not only whips up excitement about the products and utensils they sell but also reinforces your “expert” status. Pass out free recipe cards featuring the cover of your book on the back.
  • Are you writing YA books? Offer to be a speaker for Career Day at neighborhood schools. In concert with the exciting advice you dispense about what it’s like to be a writer, distribute pencils and pens with the titles of your books imprinted on them, hand out free bookmarks, and give them mini-teasers in the form of a tri-fold brochure or simple booklet that contains the first chapter and ends on a cliffhanger.
  • Give your fictional YA characters their own blog and encourage teens and tweens to contribute to it, post reviews, and ask advice about writing, relationships and life. This strategy will also keep you in the loop on the topics that interest them.
  • Volunteer for literary events and festivals. Organize readings and discussion groups at the library. If it’s not cost-prohibitive, attend national conferences/conventions and participate on panels. Leverage your expertise through consulting, mentoring and training gigs. Teach workshops at community centers or through distance-learning forums. Build your email list from registrations and routinely forward articles of interest and monthly tips that supplement the classes your recipients have attended. The goal is to keep your name active for every outreach group with whom you come in contact.
  • Civic organizations (e.g. Rotary) are always looking for dynamic speakers for their luncheon meetings. Whenever you have the opportunity to give a talk to these groups, be sure to not only have copies of your books on hand but also what’s called a one-pager to distribute to attendees. The one-pager is a tidy summary of your background, your publications, your website(s), your professional affiliations and, most importantly, your availability as a speaker. Gregarious people typically belong to multiple clubs and organizations (including the Chamber of Commerce) and what you’re providing them is an easy way to make their next meeting a hit. The more you can become a known – and reliable – commodity, the more bookings you’re going to get and, accordingly, the broader your platform will become.

I love hearing from aspiring authors of all ages and can be reached at authorhamlett@cs.com. Just put the words “Karen Sent Me” in the subject line and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. I do request, however, that you not send me attachments to critique for you. Since I do this professionally, I charge professional consultation fees which I’m happy to provide upon request.

Okay, this was fun

Karen’s official book launch was this Saturday–a quiet signing at Breakwater Books in Guilford, Connecticut.

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And damn it, I just had to be there.

I decided not to tell her I was coming, for two reasons: 1) I thought it would be fun to surprise her, and 2) If I had to back out at the last minute, I didn’t want to screw up her plans.

God bless my crazy friend who offered to tag along and ended up driving nearly the whole six hours from DC (I get a tad nervous in that NYC snarl, but she drives like a machine).

Much zaniness along the way, including a stop at the Pez Visitor Center. Yes, that’s the candy that pops out of the heads. Did you ever wonder what the World’s Largest Pez dispenser would look like? Wonder no more.

IMG_7263

So anyway, we finally made it to Connecticut and headed for Breakwater Books. Now keep in mind that, although Karen and I talk via electronics frequently, we hadn’t seen each other in person in EIGHT years.

So I walked in, and this happened:

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IMG_7278    FullSizeRenderFun, right? I thought so.

Karen invited us back to her lovely home afterward, and we all had breakfast with her husband and son the next morning, then hit the road before the snow started. Here we are outside the cafe at Lyman’s Orchard (a way cool farmer’s market store):

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The whole trip was way cool, and I’m so glad I was able to do it. This Saturday Karen will be giving her first reading in Mystic, CT. If you’re local (or if you’re into crazy road trips), go get a book signed and hear her read from Homing Instincts. You won’t be disappointed.

Congratulations, Karen! Hope to see you again before another eight years passes!

-Cathy

 

A Goodreads page and everything? Oh my!

Well, my novel is up on Goodreads. You can order it, review it, “add” it, so this must really being happening, after all.

And as if that weren’t enough, I also have a couple of readings and book signings scheduled at Connecticut bookshops in mid-November:

Breakwater Books — November 15
81 Whitfield Street
Guilford, CT
2 pm reading/signing

Bank Square Books — November 22
53 West Main Street
Mystic, CT
1 pm reading/signing

Local folks, please come out! Non-local folks, please find me online. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support, and all the kind wishes I’ve received.

Hope to see or hear from you soon!

— Karen

cover

 

 

 

 

Shout out to Leanne Dyck

Please check out author/blogger Leanne Dyck’s interview with, um, me on her nifty platform:  http://sweatercursed.blogspot.ca/2013/10/please-welcome-author-karen-guzman.html

Thanks, Leanne, and good luck with all your projects.

— Karen

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