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The Heart of Writing by Joanna Bloss, co-author of Grit for the Oyster

I would like to welcome Joanna Bloss, one of the authors of Grit for the Oyster, to Savvy Verse & Wit. Thanks to her for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about the heart of writing and the considerations writers must make when seeking publication. Without further ado, here’s her guest post.

Grit for the Oyster is the book we wish we would have had when we launched our writing careers. It is a powerful motivator for aspiring and experienced writers, offering wit, wisdom and inspiration to take that first step and persevere through the writing journey. There are many books that address the mechanics of writing and getting published, but not about the heart of writing.

It would be tough to stick with writing over the long haul if a person didn’t address some of the heart issues…handling rejection, keeping success in perspective, learning how to cope with writerly jealousy. . . these are the things we don’t always talk about, but are as important as some of the technical nuts and blots.

One of the great things about writing this book was being able to take the best of our four brains and put them together to produce a high-quality product. Suzanne drives the train–she birthed the original idea and is the glue that keeps us all together. Suzanne is a go-getter who has had enormous success in her relatively young writing career. Debora is equally successful and is our Energizer bunny. She tirelessly pursues every speaking and writing opportunity she can get her hands on and tackles every project 150%. Faith is our solid, stable foundation. As a writing instructor at Penn State she reads a lot of stuff and her expert eye catches many typos and other technical problems before the rest of us have even had the opportunity to read it through. I am the emotional care-taker and computer savviest of the bunch. I design promotional materials and produce e-newsletters for authors, so these skills have come in enormously handy as we’ve marketed Grit for the Oyster and our personal projects. I might add that it’s also helpful to have someone skilled in word processing and formatting on the team–it really streamlined the production process in the end.

Obviously not every writer has these strengths, nor do we often get the opportunity to collaborate with three other authors on a project, but it’s helpful to be aware of the qualities that make good writing excellent. One thing beginning writers can do is make a list of their strengths and weaknesses.

What things are you excellent at?

Where could you use some help?

Invest your creative energies in the things you do well, and don’t hesitate to set aside some of your budget to hire someone to help you with the areas where you are lacking. Hire an editor to proofread and make suggestions–before you submit that proposal to a publisher. Find someone with technical savvy to help you with layout and design so that your work is properly formatted. If you’re not willing to tirelessly publicize your book after it comes out, be prepared to hire a good publicist. Whether you possess them or not, these qualities are essential to get published in today’s market.

Editors and publishers have had their fill of good writers and don’t hesitate to mail out rejection slips by the ream. What they are looking for is a consummate professional who produces quality material, is willing to learn and work hard to promote their work. The best way to do this is to capitalize on your strengths and collaborate with other professionals who can fill in the gap for your weaknesses.

Thanks once again to Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Joanna Bloss, co-author of Grit for the Oyster.

Interested in Grit for the Oyster? Want to win a copy?

Feel free to leave a comment on the book review about why you want to read this book or discuss your biggest fears as a blogger and/or writer.

For a second entry, please leave a comment here on this guest post with a working email or blog profile.

Deadline is November 30; Randomizer.org will choose a winner for December 1.

J.L. Miles’ BEST-SELLER BLUES

Welcome to Savvy Verse & Wit‘s special guest post with J.L. Miles, who will share her writing career experiences. I want to thank J.L. Miles for taking time out of her busy schedule to contribute to my blog as part of her virtual tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Another thank you to Dorothy Thompson for sending along Cold Rock River, J.L. Miles’ latest book, and placing me in contact with J.L. Miles. Okay, without further ado, here is J.L. Miles.

I started my writing career when our children left home and my husband insisted they weren’t coming back unless they needed money. Previously, I wanted to be a movie star, but when the mirror confirmed that my theatrical-clock had not only stopped ticking, it was at the cemetery, I thought writing might be a better choice. While at the dentist waiting on a root canal—never make career decisions while waiting on a man with a knitting needle who intends to stab you in the mouth with it—I picked up a tattered paperback entitled The Writer’s Little Instruction Book.

Spooky! I was merely contemplating the idea of becoming a N.Y. Times bestselling author and the perfect manual appeared. Surely God, his angels, and all the saints were trying to tell me something, right? I didn’t consider that maybe the devil and his deceivers were having a good laugh. The book listed 365 (give or take) secrets for writing and getting published. Perfect! It was an omen. In 365 days I’d be on the bestsellers list. I simply needed to master one little ol’ secret a day. The first one I came across was the key to a successful story.

It was threefold:

1. Get your protagonist up a tree.

2. Put a tiger under the tree.

3. Get your protagonist out of the tree.

Elementary! I was on my way and about to discover secret #2, when the receptionist called my name. It was time for my root canal. Piece of cake—I was on a mission to greatness. Not even that flashing knitting needle held high in Dr.I-Forget-his-name’s hand would stop me now. Four injections (the first three didn’t take), and two hours later I drove home not the least bit interested in the N. Y. Times, its bestsellers list, or who was on it.

Tomorrow, I’d begin the great American novel, the minute my feet hit the floor, the instant my brain met the coffee. However—don’t you hate that word?—I forgot about one character defect I’ve struggled with most of my life: I’m a world class procrastinator. If they ever give out Pulitzer’s on the subject, I’ll be a major contender. Not to say I don’t get things done. I do. But I tend to do them one minute before time’s up.

Procrastination is not a good attribute for an author. All the best books on writing (there are slews of good ones; here are my favorites: Anne Lamott, Elizabeth Berg, Julie Cameron, Stephen King—and Walter Mosely’s brand new contribution), state clearly that writers are to place themselves before the computer (or notepad, or typewriter) at precisely the same time each day for precisely the same amount of pre-determined hours each day (weekends and holiday included), in order to not only hone one’s craft, but to complete the manuscript at hand. Ahhh. . .that might be a problem.

The moment I get out of bed, I tend to explore the world around me and assess the damages, making a list as I go. Stupid little things like, I forgot to do the laundry, again and there’s no clean underwear, the milk’s sour, there’s nothing to eat but cat food, the garbage hasn’t been dragged to the curb in a month, and the refrigerator filter hasn’t been changed since we invaded Iraq. The list grows as I walk from room to room. Are those fur balls under the dining room table really having grandchildren? Can’t be, last week they were barely parents. I climb under to investigate. I meander from room to room, procrastination taking over the morning. I get out the phone book. Surely there’s an organization that can assist me. There has to be. I’m on the verge of being a bestselling author! I need recovery.

The yellow page lists Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Cheaters Anonymous, Kleptomaniacs Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous. There are groups for Obsessive Compulsion Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Bi-Polar Disorder, but absolutely no procrastinators support group. There must be an organization meeting somewhere. Actually a helpline would be my choice. A number I could call the moment I find no underwear I’m willing to wear or encounter a chore I’m tempted to do—featuring a commanding voice like my mothers that will instruct me to immediately march over to my computer and bolt myself to the chair for a minimum of three hours, and call her in the morning.

I look through the entire collection of yellow pages I’ve amassed, as well as the local newspaper’s classified ads and find nothing to assist me. Obviously, I’m one of a mere handful of major procrastinators in existence. There are simply not enough of us to require a network of supporters. Yikes! I’m on my own. I search the room for answers and spot my computer. It’s waiting, perfectly able to do my bidding. And I only have 364 more secrets to master. Glory be—I’m ready to discover them!

I dash to the computer, sit down triumphantly, and put my hands on the keys. At last! I’m ready to write the great American novel. However—the phone rings. It’s my mother. She’s waiting on me. “Did you forget you need to take me to the dentist?” Ahhh. . .yeh, I did, but I don’t tell her. “I’m on my way!” I say instead. I get up from my computer and grab my car keys.

Tomorrow, I’d begin the great American novel, the minute my feet hit the floor, the instant my brain met the coffee.

About the Author:

J. L. (Jackie Lee) Miles is the author of Cold Rock River, the critically acclaimed Roseflower Creek, and the soon to be released Dwayne Series. Divorcing Dwayne debuts April 2008. Dear Dwayne & Dating Dwayne to follow.

Write to Jackie at [email protected]

Visit the website at http://www.jlmiles.com

***Don’t Forget Today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach, leave a comment here and here and you’ll get 2 entries.


Karen White and the Writing and Publishing Process

I want to thank Karen White for joining us today at Savvy Verse & Wit! Her novel The House on Tradd Street debuted on Nov. 4, read my review. Without further ado, Karen will discuss her writing and publishing process.

I’ve done it! I’ve just completed not only my second novel in a single calendar year, but I’ve also worked through the agony of simultaneously promoting two novels published within the same time span. Am I Superwoman or Super-insane? Sitting here still in my pajamas at 11:47 am, I’m not sure I really know the answer.

I’d like to say that my decision to double my output was a calmly calculated one intended to increase sales and bring in more readers. But then I’d be lying. The fact is, I was happily writing a single southern women’s fiction novel for my publisher each year. I was relatively successful with growing sales and a solid reader base who would loyally buy each book I published. My royalty checks were respectable although certainly not big enough for my husband to chuck in his desk job and spend his life out on the golf course (which is what I might have promised him once upon a time when I stopped cooking so that I could devote more time to writing).

What happened was really an accident. I came up with a really cool ghost story/mystery/women’s fiction novel idea. It was different enough from my earlier books that they couldn’t be published by the same imprint, but it was still enough of a Karen White book for me to keep my author’s name on the front cover. But my publisher still wanted one of my straight southern women’s fiction books out once a year. The only way my new story idea could find a home would be if I squeezed those books in between my other books. That would mean two books (averaging over 100,000 words each) a year.

Sure! I said, recalling Steve Martin’s words when offered The Cruel Shoes. How hard could it be? Yes, I’m the mother of two teenagers and a small dog and I have a husband who travels incessantly. But my daughter is driving this year (and saving me 7 hours a week—yes, I calculated it) and I figured that those extra 7 hours per week would be exactly what I needed to squeeze in that extra book per year. Or so I thought.

It turns out that just because I have seven extra hours doesn’t mean that I want to squeeze in more work time. Writing is exhausting stuff. It hurts my brain. It really isn’t physically possible for me to sit in front of my computer for long hours at a time writing creatively. I need time off to ‘fill the well’ so to speak. You know, reading, playing piano, goofing off with my kids and dog. Scrapbooking. That sort of thing. It’s as essential to writing as sitting down at a desk and typing—just harder to calculate its worth since I can’t measure it in word count.

Basically what I’ve ended up doing is not so much increasing the amount of time I spend writing and doing writing-related stuff (such as writing blogs like this), but decreasing the amount of time I have to well, live my life.

The result? I’m exhausted—both mentally and physically. My daughter is starting her college search and my son has started high school which means they’re both requiring more one-on-one attention from me. My husband has been traveling more than ever making me a single parent in charge of everything from grocery shopping, to bill paying, to filling out those incessant forms kids always seem to require for school, sports and camps. When we have ants invading our kitchen or a water spot on the dining room wall, it is up to me to call the appropriate people and be here at the scheduled time. On top of all of this, I need to write two novels AND promote them.

But is it all bad news? Hardly! Sales of my backlist and pre-orders for my November book (The House on Tradd Street) have increased by leaps and bounds. As a reader, when I discover a new author, I want to buy everything he/she’s written. Apparently, my readers (old and new) think the same way. I’ve really broadened my exposure to a whole new reading audience. The House on Tradd Street is a bit of a departure for me—I add ghosts to my known mix of southern women’s fiction/romance/mystery. I think that my current readers will love this book, and I know that new readers who like it will enjoy my backlist. And, to add to the excitement, The House in Tradd Street is the beginning of a series—the second book, The Girl on Legare Street, will be out in November 2009.

The momentum created by a quick succession of books is evidenced by an increase of sales in my backlist as well pre-orders of my next book. Another reason for this is an increase in paid promotion and a new publicist—made affordable by two advances and two royalties checks in one year.

The best part is that I’ve learned that I can write fast; that the way I was writing before (a couple of hours in the morning and then I was done) was completely self-indulgent. I’m a more efficient writer now, and a better writer. When I don’t linger too long over a book, I don’t find myself getting bored with the characters or the plot, or fiddling with things that don’t need fixing. It’s all new and fresh.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. The plusses so far outweigh the negatives. It’s pushed my career to the next level in a shorter amount of time than my former path of one novel a year would have. Will I continue to do this? Absolutely not. Being exhausted does not make a fun mom/wife/friend to be around. I value my family and my friends too much to do this to them for much longer.

I just signed a new two-book contract and made sure that I had nine months between novels. Not as long as a year, but much longer than six months to write a book. It’s my light at the end of the tunnel when I’ll be able to breathe a little slower. And (hopefully!) watch my sales continue grow in response to my efforts.

Thanks again, Karen, for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts with us.

Want to win a copy of The House on Tradd Street by Karen White?

1. Please leave a comment on my review post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on this guest post for a second entry.

Deadline: November 14 at Midnight EST. The contest is open to international entrants.

Thanks again to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Karen White, author of The House on Tradd Street. For a list of other Virtual appearances for Karen, go here.

Don’t forget that Karen will have a sequel, The Girl on Legare Street, out in November 2009.

Jane Odiwe & Lydia Bennet’s Take on Halloween Fun



Hello everyone,

I’d like to thank Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit very much for asking me as a guest on her blog. I’m going to tell you about how I developed Lydia’s character in Lydia Bennet’s Story and…

“La! How dull would that be?”

Excuse me, Lydia…as I was saying…

“No one wants to hear what you have to say, Jane, they’d much rather hear about the night of mischief and fun that Kitty and I had on Hallowe’en.”

I’ve been asked to talk about my book…

“Dearest Jane, I think I hear the doorbell … oh good, that got rid of her, she’s gone! Halloo! It’s Lydia Bennet from Longbourn here with a tale for all you young ladies out there.”

“I’ll bet you’ll see your true love by midnight,” said our maid Mary, and she looked so mysterious and meaningful that we took her at her word and arrived at the kitchen door as late as we dared. It was very quiet and I was all for bursting in at the door but Kitty was already nervous on account of being told to come without candle or lantern. At her timid knock, the door was suddenly thrown back and the vision that greeted us was so terrifying that Kitty let out the most bloodcurdling scream you have ever heard. When we realised it was Mary with a hollowed turnip candle held under her chin we laughed so hard, I thought I might be ill.

The kitchen was very dark but for the glow of turnip candles on every surface illuminating several strings of apples suspended from the ceiling. A large bowl of water with more apples floating atop was set before a looking glass, which strangely resembled the one from my bedchamber.

“We’ll have snap apple and bobbing for apples later but first there is a tradition that all young ladies must perform. You must stand before the glass, quite alone in the dark, and a vision of the man you are to marry will appear within, before the bewitching hour,” said Mary.

“I will not,” cried Kitty, “No fear, I’m not standing here in this horrid, dark place for anything, even if Prince George himself was to appear.”

“Lord!” said I, “There’s nothing to it, Kitty, but I warn you, if I see Prince George, I’ll slit my throat. Ugh, can you think of anything more disagreeable than marrying that oaf!”

I must admit I felt a slight apprehension when they’d extinguished every candle before leaving me, and the hairs on my arms and legs prickled up at the unfamiliar sounds in the cold kitchen. There was a scuffle in the corner and the thought of a mouse nearly had me running for the door.

I stood before the glass and soon became quite engrossed with my own reflection which it has to be said looked most becoming by the soft bars of moonlight creeping through the window.

It was then that I thought I heard breathing. I looked behind me but there was no one there. I turned back to the glass and caught sight of a glimmering light in the background, so I spun round again only to find it had disappeared. I wheeled back to the glass once more determined to catch sight of whatever apparition was about to materialize when I got the fright of my life. A phantom in white, and not at all my impression of a handsome beau was leering at me in the dark, with hideous, grinning teeth. I screamed and fainted into the arms of the horrible ghoul!

The door burst open and there, holding onto their sides, falling upon themselves with laughter, were Kitty and Mary. My assailant had me blindfolded before I could protest further and in a soft voice not in the least unbecoming, begged for a kiss from his future wife. What else could a girl do in the dark, I ask you, other than oblige? In any case, I had guessed from his delicious smell that it was Mr Edwards, who it is well known has something of a passion for me and, indeed, is quite the best-looking young man of my acquaintance!

Of course, I protested loudly through the whole sordid exhibition and it was only when we went to bed that I admitted to Kitty, that although I do not think I found my husband on All Hallows Eve, I certainly enjoyed my adventure!

As an after thought, I must just add that, whatever you may have read about Jane Odiwe’s influence over me and the development of my character in her ‘novel’, Lydia Bennet’s Story, she had nothing whatsoever to do with it – I am entirely my own wonderful person – perfection can never be imitated, improved or further developed!

Lydia Bennet

***Want to win a copy of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe? I have one copy for one U.S./Canada winner (sorry no P.O. boxes) and one copy for an international winner.

Here’s what you do: (Remember to leave me an email address or blog link so I can contact you!)

1. Leave a comment on this post, telling me what your favorite Jane Austen novel is or what novel you would like to read (if heaven forbid, you haven’t read Jane Austen yet!) for one entry.

2. Leave a comment on my Lydia Bennet’s Story review post, here, for a second entry.

3. For a third entry, spread the word about this contest on your blog and leave me the link here or if you don’t have a blog, email 5 friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

Deadline is November 7 at Midnight EST.

Other Contests from Savvy Verse & Wit: (Deadlines are Nov. 5)

1. Win a copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

2. Win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

Douglas Abrams, Writing, & Don Juan


It is my pleasure to introduce my guest post and short interview with Douglas Abrams, the author of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, and he will talk about what inspired him to write the novel, what his daily writing routine consists of, and what he’s working on now. If you missed my review of The Lost Diary of Don Juan, go here.

Doug is currently making his rounds of the blogosphere on a virtual book tour, and you have probably already seen him on Paperback Writer and Review Your Book. He has tour dates selected for Booking Mama, Novel Menagerie, and Literarily, among others. Check out the other dates, here.

Without further ado, here’s Douglas Abrams:

One night I went to bed asking myself a question that I believe every married man or woman asks eventually: how could I stay happily and passionately married for the rest of my life?

The next morning I awoke as if I had been shaken. It was then that I first thought of Don Juan, the universal symbol of passion. I wondered what if he had kept a diary. What secrets would it contain? What could we learn from him about the nature of passion? And ultimately, what might cause the world’s greatest seducer to forsake all women for one woman? I left my wife’s warm sleeping body, walked past our three sleeping children, and sat down at the dining room table. It was as if a voice was whispering the story in my ear.

This is how I decided to write an historical diary exploring Don Juan’s life, his passionate relationships, and his eventual fall into the madness of love. I spent over four years reconstructing the world of 16th century Sevilla, including several trips to Seville itself. The book, which began as an inquiry into the nature of love and lust, took on a life of its own and led me on thrilling adventure into the rich and dangerous world of Golden Age Spain.

So what, you may ask, is the secret to lasting passion and devotion? In the novel, Don Juan finds his answer. I hope that within its pages you will find yours.

For a quick look at the book, check out his sample chapters.

Here’s my brief interview with Doug Abrams about his writing process.

Do you have a set writing routing? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I’m a whenever-I-can-steal-the-time writer, which means I write in the morning and at night, whenever I’m not juggling my three children, my other work as a literary agent, or the responsibilities and joys of marriage. What has really been a lifesaver is going away periodically on long writing retreats. The challenge with novels is that you are working with a very large canvas, sort of like an enormous Delacroix hanging in the Louvre, so it is essential for me to step out of daily routines to immerse myself in the fictional world.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

Yes, I am currently finishing the second novel in my two-book contract. Although quite different, all of my novels will attempt to tell dramatic stories that also convey some of the ancient insights about how we can live on this planet with greater joy and wisdom. My next novel is a contemporary diary, an ecological thriller, and a mythic fiction about a love that is even more powerful than passionate love. I began with the question: can we survive as a species, and if so, how?

I want to thank Doug for taking time out of his busy schedule to write a guest post and answer a few questions about his writing process. I also would like to thank Zoe and Michelle for their help as well. If you haven’t read his book, you should grab a copy from a local bookstore, an online bookstore, or your local library.

Writing and Writing Spaces, Part 2

Day 5 of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Book Blogger Appreciation Week has introduced me to a number of poets and other writers who also blog. I wanted to get their take on their writing processes as well. Anna at Diary of an Eccentric and I opted to introduce you to two other book bloggers and writers and their writing processes, you can find Anna’s post with Rebekah of Simply Romance Reviews and Ready Set Read Reviews here.

I asked April of Cafe of Dreams to share her writing process with me and the rest of the blogging community.

April finds that writing poems is an expressive outlet, and when ideas come into her mind she jots them down no matter where she is. She branches out from those initial compositions. Sometimes she is writing abstractly because words can form different ideas in the readers’ minds. On the other hand, when she is emotional, she writes words to express what she is feeling whether it is related to a person or incident in her life. She says, “After writing the initial prose, I will often go back and repeatedly change wording until I am completely satisfied with the end result.” I can completely relate to this way of writing. I often write down a few stanzas right off the bat and then expound upon those images and ideas until the poem takes on a life of its own. Once I have a complete poem, I tend to reword it and play with line lengths and word order until I am satisfied that the end result is what I want it to be.

April is as fascinated with people and people watching as I am. She says, “I will often try and create a story that I feel may be going on within their lives. It is just the most amazing thing knowing that there are millions upon millions of people in the world, and they all have a truly unique things or thoughts going on. It is always fun for me to build on those ideas or concepts.”

What I found most interesting about her writing process is that she takes these storylines that she creates and boils them down to one or two pages in poetry form. She also uses dialogue and visuals to tell a complete story to her reader. Her goal is to take these short stories and create a novel length story.

While April does not often rhyme in her poetry, she does attempt to rhyme and try out different combinations of meter and rhyme. She is fascinated by the endless forms of poetry available to writers. However, she does wish that poetry was more of an outlet in today’s society. She notes, “It seems as though poetry is set back in the way of literary importance. Though it just may be that I haven’t found or been exposed to the right area. In any case, personal or professional, poetry of all forms is a wonderful creative outlet.”

More about Cafe of Dreams:

Cafe of Dreams, is my little corner of the world where I can be creative and just have fun. Most of what I cover on Cafe is books and reviews of them. I have started doing book tours and love them! I love to interview authors and have met so many great blogger friends. To sum up, Cafe of Dreams is a place where all your dreams are available on the menu. I cover many genres of books through reviews, write a bit about life and my thoughts and just want a very open and friendly place to express myself.

A poem from April at Cafe of Dreams:

A True Treasure
A kind and gentle spirit
So giving of love, laughter and gentleness
A powerful man – big in stature
larger in compassion
You gave to the world so much of yourself
You gave to your family everything

I will forever remember your wonderful smile, your joking manner
Advice and ponderings, always plentiful, will be so very missed
Visions of holding your grandchildren, treasuring each one dearly,
will forever remain in my heart
Knowing that future grandchildren will miss meeting and knowing
one of the most wonderful men in the world
tugs at my heart
Life will not be the same without you

Hearts break, as tears stream
You were and will forever be, so much to so many
As you look down upon us from your place in heaven,
I know that you will forever be in our hearts
You are a wonderful man, someone so very loved and so very treasured
You are husband, dad, grandpa, brother and son
You are one of life’s true miracles – a beautiful soul both inside and out

As you leave this earth,
you leave us all with one last lesson –
hold each precious moment dear, knowing that life is much too fragile
too delicate to waste a single second
Hold one another close
Never forgetting to say the most important words one can –
“I love you”

~~ In loving memory of my Father-In-Law
Copyright April at Cafe of Dreams

Another friendly reminder about these contests:

1. Diary of an Eccentric is holding a contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks Deadline is Sept. 30

2. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding a contest for Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg as the first contest for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding another contest for “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti as part of BBAW; Deadline is Sept. 19

4. Bookish Ruth’s contest for The Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Phillip Pullman

5. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a 1-year subscription to Poetry magazine. Deadline is Sept. 19

6. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel; Deadline is Sept. 19

7. Savvy Verse & Wit and Diary of an Eccentric’s contest for a copy of Writer’s Digest and Writing the Wave; Deadline Sept. 21 at Midnight EST.

Please also double-check the growing list of giveaways at My Friend Amy’s blog.

Writing and Writing Spaces, Part 1

Day 5 of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) has me thinking about the writing process, and how different writers respond to their muses or at least begin to write their book reviews. Whether you are a book reviewing blogger, a poet, a novelist, a short-story writer, or any other type of writer, the writing process is often a struggle within yourself, a struggle to find time enough to write, and a journey unto itself. Anna of Diary of an Eccentric and I have known each other for over a decade, and it’s hard to believe we have known each other that long. We both hit it off as freshman college roommates when we both learned that we were writers and taking a correspondence course through the mail on writing children’s books. We’ve been close friends—our husbands even joke that we act more like sisters—co-workers, classmates, and partners in a variety of literary projects.

She and I started talking about our writing processes, and I figured what a great way to start up a dialogue among our book blogging friends as part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. She and I have had very different processes, and I remember the days when my need for loud music (either musicals like the Phantom of the Opera or heavy metal) while I wrote drove her crazy.

Hey Anna, aka Diary of an Eccentric, I’ve been wondering how you prepare mentally for writing? Does ambient noise bother or inspire you? And does your mood influence what you write?

ANNA: I don’t do much mental preparation for writing blog posts and book reviews. I have a schedule in my head (because I lose all the darn sticky notes), so I already have an idea what to write. But when it comes to my novel and short stories, etc., I try to block out the real-life things that affect my mood (screaming kid, bad day at work, bills) and try to channel my characters. There are times when I don’t have to do much preparation at all, and my pen takes me on some wonderful adventures that I had no idea were inside my head. I can’t write with lots of background noise. I have to wait until my daughter is in bed or not in the mood to bother me, and I can’t watch television at the same time. (It’s so hard to go a day without watching Hogan’s Heroes!) But I have a play list on my iPod where I stick songs that fit the mood of my novel, listening to them helps the words flow. Of course my mood affects my writing! I wrote some of my best poems when I was depressed. Then I had to find my husband and become a mom, which put me in a good mood most of the time, and the poetry muse is either hiding in disgust or gone for good. I don’t mind so much about the loss of my poetry; I’m glad I have a happy home life!

SERENA: You haven’t given up on writing sticky notes because I’ve seen all of those notes all over your desk and books. I remember in college you used to hate studying in the same room with me because I had to have the radio on loudly. I assume that would still drive you crazy.

So would you say that you are like Stephenie Meyer in the sense that you have a play list for particular projects or just a particular play list for creative writing in general?

I think the poetry muse is just pissed you never had any of her children published! Just Kidding.

ANNA: Yeah, I’ll admit I still use the sticky notes, but once I write them, I don’t really look at them again. (What’s the point of writing them, you might ask. I ask myself that, too.)

I think you’re forgetting that it was my stereo, so it was on my side of the room. Actually right next to my desk, so when you’d grab the remote and turn the music up, I was deaf for three days afterward!

As for the play list, I set it up for my novel. Since I’ve been working on it for awhile (I’m going to tell you to shut up before you say anything because I know what you’re going to say!), it’s the only play list I’ve used. If I ever finish this one and start another, I’ll let you know whether I need a new play list.

I didn’t mean to upset the muse…I just never felt the urge to publish my poetry. The one poem I read at the Sigma Tau Delta convention in St. Louis (how many years ago was this??)…I just don’t know if I can go through the rejections with that one. The others are far, far from being ready for publication. You’ll have to publish them for me when I’m gone.

SERENA: Well, you know that I will publish them when you are gone, which I hope is not for a very, very, very (ok you get the picture) long time.

ANNA: As long as the muse doesn’t have a murderous streak, I should be okay!
Anyway…tell me about your mental preparation? Do you need loud music for creative writing, or was it just a way to keep yourself awake while reading that boring political science stuff in college? Do your moods affect your writing?

SERENA: I hope muses don’t have murderous streaks because I could be in trouble; I haven’t had anything published in a couple of years.

In college, I admit that the radio was my way of staying awake while reading that boring poli-sci stuff I already learned in honors history in high school…we all know what happened if I wasn’t listening to music, I was asleep and never made it to my 8AM class. Thank goodness, they invented iPods.

Ok, preparing my mental space first requires the husband to either be asleep or out of the house! When I sit down to write, I must have some kind of ambient distraction. Whether that is music or the television will depend on my mood. I tend to listen to a particular group or genre of songs for the novel and poetry it can be any music. As for the short stories, I tend to work on those in silence or with the television going, which I think is akin to the fact that I find short story writing harder. As you can tell, I am long-winded!

Moods, hmmm, I have a wide variety of those. I used to write poetry only when depressed, but now I tend to be most poetic when I’m contemplative. (is that a word? English grammar and spelling don’t fail me now!) Whether there is something on the television, in the real world, or just something I come across and I have time to the think about it (who has much of that these days) I will jot down a few lines. I also have been inspired by books I’m reading to write a couple lines or stanzas of a poem, which you can find out more about in Jill’s interview of me for BBAW. Anyway, to make the story short, I think poetry is impacted by my mood. Where the novels and short stories come from I have no idea, although there was that one that came from a dream!

ANNA: I think it’s cool that stories come to you in dreams! (Now I’ll assume the nagging friend role…have you worked on that story lately, young lady??) I also remember you jolting awake, climbing down from the loft bed, and rummaging around on your desk to jot down poetry ideas in the middle of the night. That darn banker’s lamp was too bright for my sensitive eyes! Do you still do that?

SERENA: I actually find that poetry comes more now when I am awake on the bus, subway, walking down the street, or just observing something on television or reading a book, among other things. THAT short story is in hibernation until I have fresh eyes to look at it again. I’m following Stephen King’s advice from On Writing.

And it was only that one story that came in a dream!

ANNA: Do you have any other writing book recommendations?
Personally I like The Novelist Boot Camp by Todd Stone.

SERENA: I love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont and the 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley. I still have not read The Novelist Boot Camp; it may be the army green color of the book that makes me nervous.

So once you are prepared mentally to write, where do you physically plunk yourself down and get to work?


ANNA: Sometimes I write blog posts on the train, but never my novel or stories. I don’t like people looking over my shoulder. At home, I’ll sit on the couch with a notebook and my lapdesk, or if the husband insists on having the TV on, I’ll go upstairs and lay on the bed to write. I’ve always preferred a notebook/journal to writing at the computer. I sit at a computer 8 hours a day for work, and I don’t find those computer chairs comfortable enough to allow a free flow of creativity. I used to love writing outside. When we were at Quinnipiac College (now University, but it will always be QC to us!), there was the view of Sleeping Giant, which was beautiful when the leaves started changing colors. And hiking up to the overlook and writing there was peaceful.

SERENA: So that’s your most unusual writing place, on top of the Sleeping Giant overlook? No computer writing for you? In terms of writing with a notebook and pen, would that change if you had a laptop and not a desktop computer?

ANNA: I don’t know if it would change if I had a laptop. I think I’d be a lot more comfortable when I’m typing, but I really like the way the pen flows on the paper. I guess I’m weird like that.

How about you? Where do you write? What’s your most unusual writing place?

SERENA: Well, you do also like the smell the pages of your books, especially new ones. That is a bit weird.

Poems are generally written in a small notebook or journal that I carry everywhere–on the subway, the bus, in the car, walking–it’s always on my person. I only use those roller ball pens, usually black, but I don’t discriminate if I have a different color handy. I really like the electric blue pens, speaking of how ink flows onto a page. However, there are those occasions that I write poems on the laptop, which can be anywhere from on the desk/kitchen table to the couch, the comfy leather chair my husband saved from the trash man, or the porch. Short stories are written in a variety of college-ruled notebooks, again with those roller ball pens I love so much. They only get typed up when I am ready to say it is finished, and that’s when the story or novel undergoes its first editing process, as I am transcribing my written words from paper to electronic document.

The most unusual writing space for me is probably at the camera shop I used to work at. While developing and printing photos, I often had my notebook/journal out and I jotted down poems or short story ideas. Yes, I was writing away while wearing white photo developing gloves and a lab coat. I must have looked ridiculous.

ANNA: So I’m weird, and you’re ridiculous! We make quite a pair!

Those roller ball pens ROCK, and that’s what I was saying about the ink flowing on the page. I’m like you in that I’ll type after I’ve written and edited things in my notebook.

How about book reviews? You write them at the computer?

I tend to write those in my notebook first…I don’t like the pressure of the glaring white screen (or the uncomfortable computer chair, which you already know about so I’ll stop mentioning it).

SERENA: Book reviews are written on the computer at the computer desk/kitchen table. I don’t write those out beforehand, but then I generally write the book reviews while the book is fresh in my mind. I tend not to wait too long to review what I’ve been reading because I’m likely to forget the details.

And Now for the Contest! To enter to win a subscription to Writer’s Digest or a copy of Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres offered by Anna to another lucky winner!: Deadline Sept. 21 at Midnight EST

1. Answer one or all of these questions in the comments for one entry. If you comment here with the answers to these questions and on Diary of an Eccentric’s post, you get two entries, one for each comment.
2. Answer these questions in your own blog for 2 entries, and link back to this post and the one at Diary of an Eccentric; Please leave a link to your blog post.
3. Tell me about your ideal writing space on either my post or Anna’s post in the comments for an additional entry. No double entries for this one.

Another friendly reminder about these contests:

1. Diary of an Eccentric is holding a contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks Deadline is Sept. 30

2. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding a contest for Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg as the first contest for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding another contest for “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti as part of BBAW; Deadline is Sept. 19

4. Bookish Ruth’s contest for The Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Phillip Pullman

5. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a 1-year subscription to Poetry magazine. Deadline is Sept. 19

6. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel; Deadline is Sept. 19

Please also double-check the growing list of giveaways at My Friend Amy’s blog.

The Journey to Publication by Phyllis Zimbler Miller and Contest!



Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel took 38 years to come to fruition from the time I first experienced being a new Mrs. Lieutenant in the spring of 1970 during the Vietnam War until the book was published.

About 18 years after that experience I told the story to two female film producers who optioned the story for a movie. Then a few weeks later they told me I had to write a book first. I wrote a fictional account of my experiences to protect the innocent, but by the time I finished the first draft, they had moved onto other projects.

There followed 20 years of writing and rewriting, reading books on writing, taking classes on writing, taking part in writers’ groups, and getting rejected by agents and book editors. One rejection said that there was no longer racial prejudice in the United States, so my book was no longer relevant. Another rejection said that the four women had to meet through their own jobs such as at a law firm and not through their husbands.

During this time, I believed this story preserved a slice of women’s social history – what did the wives of men in the military think about the Vietnam War. All the fictional movies and books about the Vietnam War I knew were from the point of view of men, and I was determined to tell this story from the women’s point of view

When I showed the book to other people, they liked it, but everyone said something was missing, though they could not pinpoint the problem. I hired a consultant to evaluate the novel, and he discovered issues with the timeline in the book and offered some suggestions for improvement.

I used an actual calendar to clarify the timeline during another major rewrite of the novel and adapted the standard three-act screenplay structure. The novel now has three parts.

This past December I got an email forwarded to me from a friend. The email was actually from an acquaintance of my friend who said she was tired of waiting for people to say yes to her about her book and that she was going to self-publish. I had an epiphany.

I realized I couldn’t wait any longer for some book editor to say yes to me. So I immediately arranged with Amazon’s print-on-demand unit BookSurge to publish my book. I knew this meant doing all the marketing myself for Mrs. Lieutenant.

But in 1992, I was the co-author with Rabbi Karen L. Fox of the Jewish holiday book Seasons for Celebration (Karen and I just re-released the book on Amazon). Despite being published by a major house, we did all the marketing ourselves. Thus, I wasn’t worried about having to do all the marketing myself for Mrs. Lieutenant.

My experiences with Seasons for Celebration taught me several things. First, book signings are not a productive use of time unless you’re a well-known author. Secondly, trying to get Mrs. Lieutenant in bookstores also would not be productive because even when our publisher got Seasons for Celebration in Borders and other locations, the one or two copies of the book were “lost” on the shelves, surrounded by other books given much more shelf space.

So I turned to the internet with zeal, learning as much as I could about how to market online. Then I got lucky because BookSurge’s marketing consultant recommended Pump Up Your Book Promotion as a possible virtual book tour organizer. I immediately contacted Dorothy Thompson and arranged for a virtual book tour.

What’s a virtual book tour? Virtual book tours take place during a certain period of time (in my case a month) beginning and ending on specific dates. During that time, by pre-arrangement, your book is reviewed on a specific date of the virtual book tour or on that specific date the blogger features an interview of you (you’ve previously answered questions sent to you by the blogger).

You can arrange all the stops by yourself (and then announce the stops yourself on your own blog or on social media), but this can take a lot of time to research and then query bloggers. While I worked hard to provide all the interviews and other information that was needed by Dorothy Thompson, I never could have found on my own all the blogs and people with whom she connected me and through which she arranged my tour dates.

Have I sold lots of copies of my book so far? No. But all the book marketing gurus I’ve learned from say you have to give your book promotion a full year before you judge the results. Anything less is apparently too little. So I have several more months before I’ll know the results.

And eventually I might have time to go back to work on the sequel – Mrs. Lieutenant in Europe.

For those interested in supporting today’s American troops, please check out the latest post on the Mrs. Lieutenant blog.

***To win a signed copy of Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel, please answer the following question in the comments.*** Deadline is Sunday, Sept. 14 at Midnight EST

If you’re old enough to remember the Vietnam War as it was going on, what is your strongest memory of that war? If you’re too young to have a personal memory of the war, what is one thing that you learned about the war from someone you know, or in school, or from reading about the war or seeing a movie about the war?

If you blog about this contest or post this contest on Facebook, etc., and leave another comment with a link, I will gladly provide you with additional entries into this contest. Additionally, if you comment on my review you will get two more entries.