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Posts Tagged ‘Grub Street’

NOT the Slobbering Beast, although we are working on exactly this.

NOT the Slobbering Beast, although we are working on exactly this.

When I used to show my dog in the obedience ring, I had a joke with a friend.  If a dog sat when he was supposed to down, wandered off when heeling, or  jumped out of the ring to snag a jelly donut (before jumping back in!) it was ‘handler’s error.’ Translation: my fault.

My riding instructor said something similar this week.  There are three of us taking classes together, all of us middle-aged, at different levels of experience and with very different horses. We are all having different problems, and the ray of sunshine that is my current instructor blamed it all on us.  If the horse isn’t doing what you want it to do, she said, it’s your fault. 

Either you aren’t communicating clearly enough what it is you want, you haven’t schooled on that particular issue enough, or you haven’t made it evident just how important this action is to you and committed to following through with appropriate consequences when your request isn’t met.

There are exceptions, of course — there always are — but in general, to be a good trainer or rider, you need to look in the mirror when things aren’t going your way.

It’s the same with publishing.

At Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace two weekends ago, I heard the same message over and over and OVER again from the published writers who were teaching classes: There’s always a way to get better. There’s always a way to improve. There’s always room to make your dialogue sharper, your plot more intense, your characters more believable.

Agents want to say yes.They need to say yes — their income depends on finding that next sellable book.

Editors want to say yes. They want a book that keeps them up at night, that makes them go past their stop on the subway, that has their whole department buzzing.

If they aren’t saying yes, there’s a reason.

There are exceptions, of course — there always are — but in general, to be a good writer, you need to look in the mirror when things aren’t going your way.  You need to own what you can control, need to work it as hard as you can, so that if a ‘no’ comes your way, you know it’s not because of you, because YOUR writing is tight, YOUR dialogue sparkles, YOUR plot is heart-poundingly intense.

To paraphrase writer Matt Bell (who does so many revisions on his novels he made my head hurt) you have to be in it for the work, not the glory, because the glory may never come.

Do the work.

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Big Mouth

Big Mouth

There are lots of things I keep meaning to do lately, but never seem to get around to actually doing.  That’s particularly true when it comes to my writing community. It seems there’s always something else more pressing (deadlines, soccer games, homework help, actual sleep) or that requires the same financial resources (again, soccer fees, dance classes, dog kibble).

But supporting other writers — and finding that kind of support for myself — is so essential. Before my novel was published, it was amazing to connect with other writers who were struggling to create the best story they could, to find an agent and then a publisher.  And getting to know those writers, watching them launch their own novels out into the world, has been a wonderful experience.  It’s also been pretty cool to get to know some people who have been down this path before me, some of whom I’ve admired for years.

So this month, before the holiday madness truly starts, and my resources start going toward other essentials (like dog kibble, again — the Slobbering Beast can eat! — or books and toys for the kids) I’m going to carve out a chunk just for me.  Here’s what I plan to do in November:

Renew my membership at Grub Street.  I constantly tell people about this fabulous writing resource in Boston, but somehow I’ve let my own dues slip.  Whoops!

Join the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. This is a new group I’ve been eyeing and meaning to join for a while, but haven’t found the time.

Purchase/preorder several books by authors I know. (If you are interested in which ones, I’ve linked to and mentioned them on my FB author page recently.)  They are all great authors at different stages of their careers, and I want to make sure they all have the chance to keep writing. (Oh, heck.  You’re not going to click, are you? Fine. I’ll make it easy.

Joshilyn Jackson’s Someone Else’s Love Story

S.A. Laybourn’s  Christopher’s Medal

Therese Walsh’s The Moon Sisters

There.)

Is your money aligned with your mouth these days?  Tell me how, please.

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It was a crazy two days, overwhelming and awesome and tiring and energizing all at once.  In the panel with Meg Mitchell Moore and Jael McHenry, my advice for those new to the conference was to take a few days to mull over what they’ve learned.  That’s what I’ll be doing, but I wanted to share a few quick snapshots:

  • Ann Hood’s session on revisions was thoughtful and inspiring and sobering.  And Ann is absolutely gorgeous and kind-hearted — the kind of woman you want to open a bottle of wine and dish with on a Sunday afternoon.
  • I’ll take running five miles in sneakers over walking four city blocks in heels any day.

    Feet, don't fail me now!

  • Elinor Lipman is the definition of elegant, both in prose and personal style.  (You should see her shoes. I lust after them more than I do after best-seller status.) She has a razor-sharp wit and her class on dialogue was one of the highlights of the conference for me.
  • Having a friend get a request for a full manuscript (GO TOM!) was fabulous — I got that same heart pounding feeling that I did when my agent requested mine.
  • If Raffi Yessayan’s books are only half as good as his class on suspense was, I’m a fan for life.  He’s my new (to me) author discovery.
  • Going to the conference when you already know a few people (even if only virtually) makes it SO much more enjoyable.
  • Poor Alice Hoffman is still probably trying to recover from my total fangirl stalker moment.  She was gracious and kind and let me hang with her when I didn’t know anyone in the room.  I’m still pinching myself.  (Alas, I didn’t get a photo.)
  • If Grub is going to scatter finely minced mint leaves over fruit as dessert, it needs to send mirrors to the table so everyone can check their teeth.  (Chocolate cake, on the other hand, needs no mirrors to be consumed.)
  • Whip-smart presenters Crystal King, Nicole Bernier, Michael Borum and Kate Lee may have me convinced there’s something to this whole Twitter thing after all.
  • Randy Susan Meyers could go to the moon and find a  fan.  She’s that good and funny.
  • Boston is still beautiful, but no matter how much fun it is to go away, it never compares to coming home.

    The view from my hotel

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