Welcome Author Leanne Dyck

LeanneJPGLeanne 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.

TheSweaterCurse-BONOReaders wrote:
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.

 7)    What are you reading now?

In Calamity’s Wake, by Natalee Caple.

Welcome Author Susan Schoenberger

watershedyear-200x300Connecticut author Susan Schoenberger’s first novel, A Watershed Year, was published in March 2011 following, as she puts it, “many years of writing and editing and many rounds of publisher submissions.” On her website, Susan says the novelat its heart, is a love story, and a story about all the ways that we interconnect in this world of both too much and too little communication.”

Hard at work on her second novel, The Virtues of Oxygen, Susan took a few minutes to share her thoughts on writing and the reality of the publishing business. Susan has been a writer, editor and copy editor at various newspapers, including The News and Observer, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant. She’s done all this while raising three kids, a feat we at Write Despite (with three kids between us) truly admire.

Please welcome Susan Schoenberger to Write Despite.

1. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received no shortage of writing advice, but the best nugget was something Richard Ford said about his own work. He described his process of re-reading his entire manuscript with an eye toward strengthening the verbs in each and every sentence. Now I do the same thing.

2. Please tell us your favorite three authors

Richard Ford (obviously), Don Delillo, and Ann Patchett

3. Briefly describe your journey to publication.

I wrote a novel that didn’t go anywhere, then attended the Wesleyan Writers Conference in 2001 and began focusing on craft. I had several short stories published over the next few years, then attempted a novel again. This one — now called A Watershed Year — won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom prize in 2006, which helped me get an agent in 2007. My agent finally sold the book to a small publisher and it was published in 2011. Luckily, the same editor who bought the book moved to Amazon Publishing and convinced them to re-release it and buy my next book. A Watershed Year will be re-released on Nov. 26, 2013, and my next novel, The Virtues of Oxygen, is due out in the summer of 2014.

4. Advice for those now on the road to publication?

We all want to believe that the “ready for publication” standard for submitting to agents means that the book is actually ready for publication. In my case, anyway, I needed to do major rewriting and editing before the book sold and then more rewriting after it sold. It was painful, but in the end, the book was better for it.

5.  Do you write every day?

With a full-time job (and two kids in college plus one in high school), I don’t get to write every day. But I think about my story and my characters every day.

6. What are you writing now?

I’m working on the manuscript for The Virtues of Oxygen, which is due to Amazon in October. Having a deadline is a big motivator.

SusanSchoenbergerbirches1-300x199

A Watershed Year will be re-released in November by Amazon. You can pre-order a copy here: http://www.amazon.com/A-Watershed-Year-Susan-Schoenberger/dp/1477848010/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1371477953&sr=8-4&keywords=a+watershed+year

Workshop Wisdom

I’m attending a writers workshop program on June 1. Check out the host studio tucked away in the lovely hills of western Massachusetts, http://doriostermiller.com/writers_in_progress.cfm

If you’re ever in this neck of the woods (and you’re a writer), check out Dori’s studio. Great writers (who are also super nice people) come together here to help each other. I took a workshop a couple of years back and loved it. Here’s the course I’m taking this time around:

The Psychology of Strong Characters, with Jacqueline Sheehan
The most memorable characters are driven by powerful forces of fear and desire. Jacqueline Sheehan is a New York Times bestselling author and psychologist who applies basic psychology to all her characters.  In this One-day workshop, you’ll learn to challenge your characters to take the necessary actions that reveal the white-hot core of your story. It’s a tall order, but that’s what all good stories are essentially about.

This couldn’t come at a better time for me.  As I write my way further into the new book, issues of how compelling and sympathetic the main character is have taken center stage. It’s been a while since I sat in a roomful of strangers and discussed my (and their) work. And while not all the points discussed will apply to me, I always leave these things with at least a few priceless nuggets of insight that help me look at my writing in a new way. I’ll post my best takeaways to share with you all next week.

Until then, write well.

–Karen

Our First Guest Blog! Meet Writer Adrienne Kerman

I’m a writer. Like most writers, I’ve never actually written a book and I probably never will. I jokingly say I’m too ADHD to write an entire book … and that might actually be true. I think and write in bits and pieces … an article painting a piece of my day in vibrant swipes of color, or a blog entry detailing a bit of a harrowing experience in the harshest black and white.

As the mother of teenaged twin sons, I often write about parenting issues … the joys, the toys, the very smelly boys. For almost two years now I’ve been writing a parenting column for Boston area Patch sites.

You know what that means?

It means that for two years I completely chronicled the ridiculousness that is this parent’s life, and the pure beauty that is this parent’s life.

It means that I’ve produced a very tall stack of descriptively documented chapters in my children’s lives.

Why, some people might even call that a … book.

Take THAT, ADHD!

But I’m executively dysfunctional, which means I work best if someone else provides the structure. It’s why I have a day job in a professional environment that comes complete with detailed policies and procedures already outlined in neat little handbooks with convenient tables of contents; Microsoft Outlook Calendar already installed on my computer; and assistance with the administrative organization.

Write Despite provides that same structure for my writing. Twenty minutes a day is not overwhelming or overflowing. I can commit to that. I did commit to that, and it helps me consistently produce and honor deadlines.

Note From Write Despite: We’re so glad to have helped bring about some amazing writing, like this piece from Adrienne’s Moms Talk column, posted on Massachusetts area Patch sites. (Grab a tissue.)

It’s Not You, It’s Me—And Other Forms of Rejection

Springtime, and I’ve been going through old papers here at my house, trying to decide what to toss and keep. One file drawer holds nothing but fiction—my stories, ideas for stories, friends’ stories, handouts of stories from past teachers…and one big, fat manila envelope marked Rejections.

Why did I keep them? Hey, in college, I knew someone who actually papered a wall with rejections, and I’ve taken the same sort of pride in mine. Most of them are standard form letters, but some editors wrote personal notes, and I have to give them credit for scribbling a few thoughts down for me. Especially the ones from high-brow pubs, like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Esquire, and a whole slew of literary journals: Crescent Review, Story, Grand Street, Crazyhorse, Glimmer Train (I would still commit a misdemeanor to get into Glimmer Train). And then more obscure ones like Bottomfish, Common Touch, and Dodobobo (?). Yes, I spelled it right.

The editor of that last one sent me a very lengthy, handwritten rejection, which ended with, “Your story is too long. Do you have anything shorter?”

It took you nearly two pages to call me long-winded?

Another said, “We were very interested in your story and had hoped to use it—but found we couldn’t schedule it in a reasonable time.”

Schedule it? Hey, no rush. I would wait for, um, ever.

A third said my story was “Impressive. It came CLOSE. I especially liked the ending. I’m sure you will publish this story, as I nearly did.”

Okay, that one was just cruel.

My favorite was the one pictured here.

rejection envelope 001

This is the original envelope I mailed a story in. Back in those days, I would send printed pages with enough return postage for the story’s return, along with any comments. And I would turn down the corners of a couple of pages in the middle, and near the end (oh, so tiny folds, as not to be noticed). That way, if the story came back, I could see if it the “seal” had been broken, and verify whether it had actually been read. (Anyone else do this?)

Anyway, there was apparently a team of editors at this particular journal, and they all read my story, then passed around my envelope and wrote their “votes” on it—each stating why it was good or bad. Some additional votes were written on scraps of paper that fluttered out when I pulled the pages from the envelope. Now that is a memorable rejection.

Only a few of my stories actually got published—one after getting rejected 63 times. My Rejections folder contains 117 letters—my Acceptance folder six. But I can’t allow myself to part with any of them, since they are evidence of the fact that I actually did do some writing, and spent a fair amount of time working to send that writing out into the world. When I look back some day, maybe I’ll at least be able to say I tried.

Most of my rejections these days are from agents. A few are standard form letters, and some actually give me the equivalent of what I’d guess a handwritten note would be these days—a personal apology and best of luck with some other agent (read: sucker) who might have lower standards.

But I’ll keep trying, keep writing, and no doubt keep getting rejected. It’s all part of the life we’ve chosen, right? And if I ever get my office clean, I may just start putting up that wallpaper.

–Cathy

Do you Shift F5?

keyboard

If you use Word to write your documents, like most of the free world, Shift F5 is the best little trick ever.

I used to put symbol markers in my long writing projects. At the end of each session, I’d slip in an asterisk so I could search for it when I revisited the piece to find where I left off. But when I started to use asterisks to denote breaks in time, that got confusing. I finally settled on a percent sign, which I would never use in regular text and was easy to find. This worked great, except I’d forget to delete it, and have a sentence like, “She turned off the light and shut the door.%”

Uh. No.

So I may be the last person on the planet to discover Shift F5, but I’ll relate this news just in case you also live in a cave. Hold down these two little keys when you first open your Word document, and you will be magically spirited to the exact spot you were working on when you left off. No hidden symbols! No searching for your last entry (and invariably getting caught up reading old stuff when you should be WRITING).

Shift F5 has made this book just a little bit easier for me to work on. And it’s got me to thinking about all the things–large and small–that we struggle against as we try to squeeze in some kind of writing every day. To be able to effortlessly skim past what’s been done before and start fresh where we left off is not only convenient, it’s kinda’ breathtaking.

Because, Jay Gatsby aside, it really may not be such a hot idea to relive the past, getting lost along the way.

Gatsby

Better to look ahead to the next great thing. That won’t happen if you can’t get past your beginning pages.

So I’m going to do my 20 minutes (or more!) now. And see if I can Shift F5 my way to accomplishing something.

What keeps your writing moving forward?

–Cathy

(P.S. So psyched to have a shot of Robert Redford in a post! Didn’t see that one coming.)

Soul, Sister

So, I’m thinking a lot about “voice” these days. With the first draft of the two opening chapters of my new tome almost finished, I’m paying a lot of attention to what the writing sounds like, to what kind of world I’m inviting a reader to enter.

For me, voice—that sustainable tone and mood set by the subtle interplay of language and observation—is what makes a story. I’m a pretty charitable reader of other people’s work. I forgive the occasional narrative line bumbles and rough spots, if I feel like I’m reading something that is compelling and authentic, and it’s showing me something new about the world.

Errors and bumbles can always be fixed, and, hey, nothing’s perfect. But voice is different. I think of voice as the “soul” of a story. And without a soul, what have you got? Just a lot of noise.

Let me give a shout-out here to novelist and super-blogger Amy Sue Nathan whose forthcoming debut novel, The Glass Wives, will be published by St. Martin’s Griffin in May 2013. Amy kindly allowed us to post as guest bloggers on her terrific site, Women’s Fiction Writers. We’ve connected with a whole new bunch of cool writers as a result.

So please check out Women’s Fiction Writers and pick up The Glass Wives this spring. Keep the good vibes going round.

— Karen

Glass-Wives_final-cover_high-res

Musings

Yesterday I nearly blew it. After a day of tearing down my pitiful decorations and packing them up in my moldy old boxes, I completely forgot about my 20 minutes. Just as hubby and I were settling in at 11 pm for our nightly Lost episode (Carla, too funny that you’re watching it too!), I suddenly yelled out an expletive and slapped my forehead.

Hubby sighed, hit pause. “Go write,” he grumbled. So I did. And I got in the 20, but it was unimaginative and rushed.

(BTW, I loathe the word “hubby” but have not yet come up with a clever pseudonym for my spouse. Drawing on his stoic tendencies, his superfluous intelligence, his disregard of all that is “illogical,” I think I will now refer to him as Mr. Spock.)

What happened with the writing the day before, though, was noteworthy. I had an idea for a character and a situation, but not much more than that. I plunged in anyway, and after a few lines, this person emerged, fully formed. I heard her voice, I saw her kitchen and the food she was making, I watched as she moved around and related to others and faltered and struggled and told her story.

I LOVE it when that happens. It’s rare for me, but it usually ends up being my best stuff. Once it occurred with a short story I wrote in a mere two hours (for me that’s like lightning fast), and it ended up being one of the few pieces I’ve published. Call it inspiration, muse, whatever. When it happens, I go with it—let it completely take over the writing. Because I know I can always change it up later, although that hasn’t happened yet. When characters come to life on the page and dictate their own scenes, I figure it’s because they know best.

What do you think? Has this ever happened to you?
–Cathy