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.
But 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.
The 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!
Kirsten Lopresti, having just released her fab-tastic debut novel, Bright Coin Moon, offers up some tips for fitting writing into your holiday craziness. Please check out her website, and order a copy of Bright Coin Moon for yourself or any YA readers on your gift list. It’s a smart, funny, moving tale of a teenager caught up in her mother’s fake fortunetelling business, and her plan to become a Hollywood “Psychic to the Stars.”
Happy holidays, everyone!
How to Find Time to Write This Holiday Season
The holiday season is upon us, and if you are like me, your to-do list is sky high. So how do you find time to write? Here are five suggestions that might help you squeeze in a little more time.
Make a plan. If you leave it up to chance that you will find some time to write each day, you probably won’t. Take a close look at your schedule. Can you write after dinner? During your lunch break? At your daughter’s dance class while you are waiting for her to come out? How do mornings work for you? Evenings? How do you realistically function with less sleep? Decide how much time you can give to your writing and exactly when you will do it. Try to stick to the same time each day if you can. If you make it a habit, it will become easier to sit down and begin.
Give yourself permission to cut some corners with your holiday preparations. Shop online. Buy some cookies from the grocery store and attempt to pass them off as homemade. Splurge for a house cleaner if you have company coming. Do whatever it takes. You deserve some time to enjoy the season, too.
Cut corners with your writing, too. It’s not an all or nothing thing. If you usually have an hour to devote to writing, during the holiday season you may only have half an hour. Accept this and go on.
Don’t compete with others. This goes for your writing as well as for your holiday preparations. If your neighbor’s Elf on the Shelf gives surprise presents and bakes cookies and yours can’t manage to hang upside down from a new place each morning, try not to think too much about it. There are no set rules for holiday preparations. Make a priority list and write at the top, “Priority number 1: keeping my sanity.” All other priorities from two on down should bow to that one.
If you’ve made a plan and a priority list and you still can’t find time to write right now, don’t beat yourself up. If you’ve seen the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you may remember the scene where Walter meets the photographer. He’s sitting on the hill, waiting for his opportunity to film the snow leopard, but when it finally appears, he doesn’t take the shot. When Walter asks him why, he replies, “Sometimes I don’t.” He then goes on to explain that he’d rather be in the moment sometimes, even if it means missing a really great picture. So if you need a few weeks off, take it. It could be that enjoying the holiday season is exactly what you need to be doing right now.
Karen’s official book launch was this Saturday–a quiet signing at Breakwater Books in Guilford, Connecticut.
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.
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:
Fun, 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):
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!
New writer Karen Baker recently stumbled upon the Write Despite challenge. Wrestling with a short story she needed to get down on paper, Karen says 20 minutes a day have made all the difference.
Please welcome Karen Baker to Write Despite.
I found Write Despite through a very dear friend of mine, who gave me the delightful news that her daughter-in-law, Karen Guzman, was having her first novel published. When I was Googling around one day, I decided to look Karen up and I discovered the wonderful treasure tool, Write Despite. It was the perfect nudge for me because it featured the 20-minute challenge right there in the first line on the front page of the website.
I have to say that Write Despite has come along at just the right time for me. I have had a story going on in my mind for some time. It is with me all the time like an invisible friend. One day I finally started to write it down. I thought if I could get it out of me, then my mind would have some space to be calm, and start a new story. I always feel like I am trying to help this character, as if she is a real person. The story is about Angie, a middle-aged married woman who is very unhappy and has a few health issues that she is consumed with—so much so that they are interfering with all of her relationships. They aren’t even life threatening, but she relies heavily on her pain medication and has forgotten the joy of living.
When a “health nut” outsider arrives one day, a new spirit of fun begins as one very interesting fact about who she is and why she is there is revealed.
The 20-minute-a-day challenge has really made a huge difference in my dedication to writing, because it keeps it simple and fun. The time is perfect because with the busy schedules that everyone seems to have, 20 minutes of writing is manageable and feels like a huge accomplishment. Why, after 20 minutes, it leaves me wanting to write a little more. It’s similar to the feeling of when you’re reading a really good book, and keep telling yourself you’re going to read just one more chapter before returning to the dishes.
Thanks to Karen and Cathy for making writing fun and for demonstrating the possibility that dreams can come true.
Hannah Barnaby is author of Wonder Show, anovel set in 1939 that tells the tale of 13-year-old Portia Remini, who flees a Home for Wayward Girls and winds up with a traveling sideshow. As if the freakish world of the carnival and its sideshow “misfits” aren’t enough to deal with, Portia’s also searching for the father who abandoned her, and keeping a constant watch for Mister, her old headmaster, whom she’s certain will someday find her.
Wonder Show was a 2013 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist and a Children’s Book of the Month Club pick. It was also named to the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List, the Bank Street College’s Best Books List, and the School Library Journal’s Best Books List, and it was an IndieBound New Voices Selection.
Intrigued? Offer up a comment to Hannah’s interview with Write Despite, below, and you could win a free, signed copy of Wonder Show.
This is your first book, correct? Why did you choose to write YA and is it the genre you plan to continue with?
Wonder Show is my first published novel, but not the first that I wrote. I have a middle-grade story that I wrote during my MFA program at Vermont College, that novel-in-the-drawer that most writers have. I’m not sure if it will ever be resurrected, but it taught me about the building blocks of a novel and about my own process.
As for choosing to write YA, I actually work pretty hard not to think about genre while I’m writing. Some genres—picture books, for instance—are obvious designations and have their own rules, but the lines between others—like middle-grade and YA—are not as clear. When Wonder Show was first published, it was named to the middle-grade summer reading list for the Children’s Book of the Month Club. Then it was nominated for the William C. Morris Award for debut young adult novels. So there was no hard and fast label for the book, which I appreciated because it reflected the fact that the audience for Wonder Show could be wider than one group of readers.
Your website says you came up with the character of Portia Remini in a dream, but what drew you to write about the circus, and its sideshow “misfits” in particular?
When I set out to write Wonder Show, all I had was the image of a girl riding a bicycle on a dirt road, and the sense that she was running away from somewhere. I didn’t know where she was going or who she was running from or anything else, really. Then a friend told me about a grant offered by the Boston Public Library, the winner of which would get financial support as well as being named the Children’s Writer-in-Residence. I decided to apply, and in researching the library’s Special Collections, I found that they had an archive of circus materials and quite a few books on circus and carnival history. A few months later, I won the grant! And then I was faced with actually writing the project that I’d proposed, which became Wonder Show.
The shifting POV among your characters comes later in the book, and gives it an unexpected twist. Was it fun to switch gears this way, and what made you decide to use this technique?
I wrote the first draft of Wonder Show very much by instinct. When I sat down to write each day, I took a few minutes to think about Portia and where she was and who she was with, and then I started to fashion a scene that built that atmosphere. It wasn’t plot-driven writing at all, but it was very much character-driven, and so I needed to get to know the supporting cast better. Writing pieces of narrative from each different point-of-view gave each character a turn to speak to me and let me know who they were and how their stories intersected with Portia’s. I wasn’t sure about keeping these pieces in the final manuscript, but I came to love them and what they revealed about the sideshow family. (I will say, however, that writing without regard for plot or chronology made the revision process *extremely* challenging. I don’t recommend this method.)
Can you talk a bit about your road to publication?
My path to publication is very different than that of most other writers, because prior to becoming a writer I worked as a children’s book editor at Houghton Mifflin, and winning the grant from the BPL also put me in contact with some valuable allies. One of the judges who awarded me the grant was Melanie Kroupa, who then had her own imprint at FSG. A couple of years after I finished my residency, Melanie wrote to ask, “What ever happened with your novel? Can I read it?” I asked for some time to do a quick revision (six weeks!) and I sent it off. Melanie didn’t end up acquiring the project, but her request got me working on the manuscript again and eventually Kate O’Sullivan, a friend and former colleague at Houghton, offered me a contract.
Do you write every day?
I aspire to write every day, but I rarely do. The reality is that I have three kids, only two of them are in school full-time, and life is unpredictable. So most of all, I try to be flexible. I might steal 20 minutes of writing time while my daughter’s in ballet class or while I’m supposed to be folding laundry. When I can plan for larger blocks of writing time, I always plan ahead so I know what to work on as soon as I sit down. I always, always have a notebook and pen with me because you never know when an new idea will come or the solution to a problem will make itself clear. (And my kids are always saying the most hilarious things, so I can capture those, too.)
What advice do you have for other writers still struggling to create or publish?
Writing is HARD WORK. And the fact that it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong—it means that it’s important and complex and full of emotion, as all good writing should be. Take the time to find the process that works for you, and know that your process will adapt and change from project to project. When I started writing Wonder Show, I was a single, working professional living in Boston. By the time I finished the novel for publication, I was married with children and living in the Connecticut suburbs. My perspective had evolved, and it deepened my writing and my understanding of the creative process.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just completed a contemporary YA novel that’s going out for submission soon (wish me luck!). This summer, I plan to work on a younger chapter book and a few picture book manuscripts—I’m giving myself permission to loosen up my schedule and play with writing more than I usually do. I’ll let you know how it goes!
And by the way, if you’re anywhere near Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, Hannah will be reading at the Girls of Summer Reading Party at 7 pm at the main branch of the Richmond Public Library, 101 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA. She will be reading with Meg Medina and also author Gigi Amateau, another ‘Q&A Book Giveaway’ author previously featured on Write Despite. Go if you can!
AND DON’T FORGET: YOU COULD OWN A FREE COPY OF WONDER SHOW. JUST TELL US WHY YOU’D LIKE TO OWN THIS BOOK BY POSTING YOUR COMMENT HERE.
Taking a break from the book for a while because … well, because I’m stuck. Discouraged. Not feeling it . But you don’t want to hear my problems. Neither does Karen. She told me to shut up and quit whining and go write a short story. Okay, she was much nicer than that, but I got the message.
A short story!!??
This may seem like no big deal to you, but I haven’t written a story in years. How sad is that? I’ve been so caught up in the novel thing that the idea of shorter fiction hasn’t even been on my radar. If you want to switch gears and get a new outlook and rev up the energy again, though, I guess you really should consider going back to the basics.
I plan to start by reading stories, of course. I used to read short fiction all the time. Best American Short Stories is always on my Christmas list (thank you in-laws for making sure this is under the tree each year), but I confess I haven’t read a whole one in years. I’ll look through them now, though, since I’m one of those people who pulls inspiration from others (okay steals, if you like—I’m not too proud to admit it).
Any other suggestions for where to find great stories? Do you read literary journals? The New Yorker? Alice Munro anthologies?
Anyone want to write along with me?
When we’re done, here’s a GREAT listing of pubs to submit to:
Most writers remember their first publication: the magical acceptance letter (usually after a raft of rejections,) reading the galleys, seeing the finished thing alive in the world. We thought it would be fun to launch an occasional series featuring authors talking about their breakthroughs. Sometimes the story behind the story is the best part.
Please join us in welcoming Vanessa Hua to Write Despite.
Vanessa is a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing. An award-winning writer and journalist, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, ZYZZVA, Crab Orchard Review, New York Times, New Yorker, Salon, and elsewhere. A former staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, she has reported from China, South Korea, and Panama. She blogs at threeunderone.blogspot.com and can be found at www.vanessahua.com
Late in 2005, I won the Cream City Review fiction contest – my first short story in print. When I received the e-mail, I stood up in the newsroom and shouted with joy and excitement, struck by the heady, dangerous feeling of affirmation. I’d been judged worthy! By then, I’d also reported from China, launched an award-winning campaign finance investigation, and had married. When I won the contest, it felt all parts of my life were coming together – professionally, personally, and creatively.
I’d been writing fiction since I was a child, won writing contests in high school, and had studied creative writing at Stanford University. After graduation, I focused on my journalism career. In my spare time, I wrote scenes, sketches, starts of stories that went nowhere. When I re-read pieces I’d written in college, I felt conflicted: proud that the stories had merit, yet it felt like a stranger had penned them. I didn’t remember how to write a story.
Eventually, I signed up for a fiction workshop where I produced the story that won the Cream City Review contest. I’d learned about the journal after reading the publishing bio of another student in the class whose work I admired. That success helped keep me going as I started writing more fiction, submitting to journals, taking workshops, joining writer’s groups, and going to writing conferences. Of course, if you spend too much time chasing validation, you might succumb to the despair of rejection – and I’ve been rejected many times since then. And you have to spend more hours writing than talking about writing.
In 2007, I decided I wanted to learn how to write a novel, and I headed to UC Riverside, where I earned my MFA. Five years later, I had the pleasure of being asked to judge the Cream City Review fiction contest. I hope that the prize helped encourage the winner in her career, too.
In deciding where to submit, I continue sending to places that publish writing I admire. I also seek out paying journals, those with interesting business models, such as DailyLit, and strongly promote the work of their authors, such as At Length. I also enter contests, such as The Atlantic’s student fiction prize, which I won in 2008. Your chances might be slim, but if you don’t enter, you have no chance at all.
Heading into a new year, we here at Write Despite have been thinking a lot about perseverance. Lately it seems that this quality, more than any other, is responsible for whatever good fortune we’ve had. We consulted Merriam-Webster for an exact definition.
Perseverance: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
That’s about as accurate a description of the writing life as we’ve ever heard. But we thought we’d ask our old writer friend Hardy Jones, author of “Every Bitter Thing” (still love that title), to weigh in.
Please post a comment on Write Despite about an instance in your own writing life when perseverance has paid off—whether it’s an acceptance letter or nailing the perfect sentence. Hardy will select one respondent to receive a free copy of “Every Bitter Thing.”
“Perseverance and the Writing Life”
Why write and continue to do so when one’s attempts have been met with rejection? Early in one’s writing life, perseverance—it could be argued—is one’s greatest trait. Writing can always be improved, but not if a burgeoning author throws in the towel before that writing has blossomed.
Gustave Flaubert said, “Writing is a lonely life, but the only life worth living.” Writing is lonely; it is you, your ideas, and (most commonly) a computer. The daily grind of writing can be lonely, but this is why it imperative that an author love his or her profession. Remember: No one forced you to be a writer. You can walk away at any moment. While the act of writing can be lonely, the life of a writer does not have to be lonely. Teachers, mentors, friends (authors and non-authors), and family can provide a support network. One must remember that, in the end, it is you and your ideas sitting alone that will create your story, poem, and eventually your book. If one perseveres.
Alfred Kazin said, “In every real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas is a curious anticlimax.” Presumably we all write to publish, to see our work in print, and to have an audience. But keep in mind that even the most prolific authors write more than they publish. Therefore, it is the act of writing that must sustain us, not seeing our name and work in a journal or on a bookshelf. As long as you enjoy your work (enjoy does not mean you are always happy with it, but the process is not deflating), are learning about yourself, then you are growing as a writer.
While the world tells us we cannot write, while the world tells us to focus on more realistic goals, while we tell ourselves we cannot do it…remember that perseverance will get us through those angst-filled moments.
It’s almost Halloween, which has me thinking about scary stuff. What could be scarier than trying to convince an underpaid, overworked editor you’ve never met to take you on as a freelance writer? And actually pay you real money?
I know we have some freelance writers who follow Write Despite. This post is for you. If you’ve been freelancing for any length of time, you probably don’t need to read this. You’re living it. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look.
If you’re new to the freelance trenches, click the link below. Forewarned is … as they say.
I’ve been both a staffer and a freelancer for numerous publications. I’m happy to share what little I know if you want to drop me a line.
Leanne Dyck’s stories are about strong women and the challenges they face. Leanne’s writing has appeared in the Island Writer, Kaleidoscope and Canadian Stories literary journals. In 2011 Decadent Publishing released her dark thriller The Sweater Curse as an ebook. Follow Leanne’s author journey by visiting her blog: http://sweatercursed.blogspot.com
Leanne, welcome to Write Despite and thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
1) What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
‘If you keep writing you’ll be published’ –Julia Cameron, The Right to Write
I’ve also benefited from advice gleamed from Steven King’s On Writing and Nancy Lamb’s The Art and Craft of Storytelling.
2) Please tell us your favorite three authors.
I have so many. Let’s see, today I’ll choose Will Ferguson, Jane Urquhart and Mary Sharratt.
3) Briefly describe your journey to publication.
I’ve always written. When I was in elementary school one of my poems was published in my school’s newspaper. In middle school one of my short stories was published in the community newspaper. All through school and after graduation, I continued to write but mainly for my own enjoyment. After opening a knitwear design business in 2002, I began to write articles for craft magazines. I enjoyed working with editors and was thrilled to see my writing published. Desiring to learn more about the publishing business I decided to self-publish. From 2006 to 2009, I self-published paperbacks, ebooks and an audio book. Self-publishing was fun but I’m a team player so I decided to submit my writing to publishing houses. In 2011, Decadent Publishing released my novella-length thriller—The Sweater Curse—as an ebook.
‘Stitch by colorful stitch, Leanne Dyck knits a tale of intrigue’ –Laurie Buchanan ‘Leanne Dyck has crafted a tale of exotic and existential as Danish author Isak Dinesen’s’ –Lou Allin
After reading those reviews, I closed my design business and began to write full-time. I’m now seeking a publisher for five manuscripts—this includes The Sweater Curse (which is now novel-length).
4) Advice for those now on the road to publication?
Believe in the power of your words.
Read, write and submit.
Keep writing fun.
5) Do you write every day?
Yes. Some days I work on a new project; other days I work on revisions and some days I just write for fun.
6) What are you writing now?
As a rule I usually work on at least two projects at a time. Right now I’m working on two book-length manuscripts: a non-fiction and a general fiction.