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Author Megan Mayhew Bergman Reveals Hidden Jewels of the Jazz Era in Her Book, “Almost Famous Women”

 

By Peggy Morehouse

Albert Einstein, Babe Ruth, Louis Armstrong, F. Scott Fitzgerald are men who rose to fame during the 1920’s, but what about the women from that era? There are a few who are remembered, but it’s primarily for their contributions to beauty like fashion designer, Coco Chanel and actress, Gloria Swanson. Were most women simply tending to household chores or dancing in party halls ninety years ago?

Author Megan Mayhew Bergman proves that the answer is an unequivocal  “NO” in her recently released book, Almost Famous Women. It’s an anthology of short stories about thirteen real women from the jazz era who bucked perfecting the steps of the Charelston in favor of pursuing a passion. The New York Times says, “These stories feel both specific and flexible, depicting characters whose complexity and variability hinder the making of any one unifying ‘point.’ Some of the stories, too, are told from the perspective not of one of the almost-famous women of the collection’s title but of one of her associates. Lovers, employees, siblings, friends: By including these lesser-known women, Bergman emphasizes the charisma of their better-known contemporaries; and by assiduously depicting their intimacy and power struggles, she allows for a close examination of the multiplicity of women’s experiences.”

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I was intrigued when I read about these courageous women and was pleased to meet Megan Meyhew Bergan when she visited Northshire Book Store in Saratoga Springs, NY on March 28 to discuss her book. Megan is also the author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South, McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Oxford American, among other publications. She writes a sustainability column for Salon and lives on a small farm in Vermont with her veterinarian husband, two daughters, and many animals.

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Megan Mayhew Bergman

Megan read excerpts from Almost Famous Women and then answered questions asked by those who attended. She relayed that through her research she discovered enough accomplished women who were overshadowed by the male dominant historical records of the era to write four volumes of Almost Famous Women. She went on to say that the females she chose for this collection were those who took risks to become their authentic selves during a time when women were remembered for “wearing flapper dresses and holding long cigarettes.” As she studied those who stepped outside of  societal norms, Megan explored the “psychological landscape of a woman who takes risks.” Based on facts, Megan  brought these pioneers to life through a story.

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Tiny Davis, member of the first integrated all-girl swing band, is featured in the story “Hell-Driving Women” in “Almost Famous Women”

 

Megan graciously answered questions for The Writers’ Loop and her responses follow:

1. What first inspired you to write a collection of stories about the creative and daring women you feature in Almost Famous Women?

 Megan: These stories grew out of my reading life.  I spent nearly a decade reading about such women, many of them related in some way to Natalie Barney’s female-centric salon, where she worked to recognize women’s contributions to the arts in the face of all-male canons.   Two primary things inspire me to research and write about bold women:  1) Being a woman approaching middle age who is fine-tuning her own life and 2) Being the mother of two daughters.  I want them to look at life as wide open with possibility and wonder. They need to know that there is more than one way to be a woman in the world.

 2. You spent a decade doing research for Almost Famous Women. Did your choices of who to include in this anthology evolve over time or did you have a relatively set list when you began?   

Megan: I did not have a set list, but I did know many of the cornerstones before I began writing (Dolly, Romaine, Allegra, Joe, Norma) – because these were the women who were living in my imagination. I had to let them out!

 3. The characters in your book are fantastically unique. The talented Hilton twins who are literally joined at the hip, James Joyce’s creative daughter, Lucia; Joe Carstairs the fastest woman on water; and so on. Have you ever considered writing further about any of them? 

Megan: I often get requests to turn the story about Joe Carstairs into a full-length book, and people often send me email suggesting that the story on the International Sweethearts of Rhythm would make a good movie.  I’m not opposed to either of these projects.

 4.  Although the stories are about real women, the accounts are considered fiction. As I read the book, I wondered how much actually happened. For example, did the twins’ encounters with men really occur or were they created in your imagination?

Megan: What we do know is that each twin had a fully functioning mind – with her own priorities and desires – and that though they shared a body, each twin had romantic involvements.  You can see a glimmer of those involvements with the picture at the front of the story, which shows one of the twins applying for a marriage license in New York, and getting denied.  I tried to work with many historically accurate footholds, and amped up the conflicts in ways that I thought would be true to the era and character, in hopes that I might be able to show the women’s interior landscapes.

5.  It’s evident from your bio that you’re busy with your family, farm, and animals. How do you weave writing into your life?  

Megan:  I don’t do it enough!  I can offer many critiques about  myself, but one positive thing I can say is that I have a very strong work ethic.  I’ve had a job since I was 14.  I have a few mantras I say to myself, such as “I’m not afraid of hard work.”  I work a lot in my head, so that when I come to the page, I’m efficient.  But I won’t lie – it’s hard, and often I feel exhausted.  But what’s that advice people give?  Die empty?  Give it all, give it now?  That.

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Beryl Markham was a British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, racehorse trainer and author. She became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She is the author of the memoir “West with the Night.” She is featured in the story, “A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch” in “Almost Famous Women.”

Memorable Quote from Almost Famous Women: “‘Beryl is easily bored,’ people said. It was true. She was hungry to feel something everyday, and fear is what she felt pulling open the stall door. She relished the feeling, goose pimples on her arms, her heightened sense of awareness. Her singular focus.” ~ Megan Meyhew Bergman in A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch.

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You can learn more about Megan Meyhew Bregman and how to purchase her books on her website: http://www.mayhewbergman.com/

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Interview with Megan Meyhew Bergman (NPR):  (On why I dedicated my book to my two daughters)

I hope what they’ll feel first is intrigue, and permission to have intellectual curiosity, permission to live passionately, and you know, chasing dreams is sort of a silly expression — but I think people that do that are happier. I think there’s a lot of dissonance for women, where there’s how we want to live, and how we want to see ourselves, and then what our real circumstances are. And I think the more we can close that distance between who we want to be and who we really are — the happier we are.”

 

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Author David Pietrusza Discusses “1920: The Year of the Six Presidents”

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

On March 18, 2015, I attended a gathering of readers, writers, and history buffs for a two-part presentation by local best-selling author and historian David Pietrusza, held at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library.  The Town of Clifton Park and the Community Arts and Culture Commission sponsored the event.

David Pietrusza

David Pietrusza

David Pietrusza discussed his book, 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents, which Kirkus Reviews honored as one of its Best Books of 2007.  The book chronicles six famous men and their connection to the presidential election of 1920. At that time, past, present, and future presidents jockeyed for the Oval Office: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt.  Pietrusza told each of their stories, embellished with the social and political climate of the time as if he had been present, knew the candidates personally, and witnessed the drama first hand.  He thoughtfully set the scene and rolled out the events leading up to the election.

The incumbent Woodrow Wilson was ill, and having already served two terms, he eventually decided not to run for a third time.  Former president and front runner for the 1920 Republican ticket, Theodore Roosevelt, became ill and died in 1919. Franklin Roosevelt ran for vice president on the losing Democratic ticket with James Cox.  In the end, Warren Harding was elected the 29th President of the United States, and his running mate Calvin Coolidge became Vice President.  But in 1923, Warren Harding died in office, leaving Calvin Coolidge to succeed to the presidency.  In the next election, in 1924, Coolidge won the office of president in his own right.

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The election of 1920 took place just three months after the 19th Amendment granted voting rights to American women. Pietrusza related the events of August 1920, when Tennessee was the last of the thirty-six states needed to ratify the amendment.  With a twinkling eye, Pietrusza recounted the eleventh hour action of young Tennessee legislator Harry Burn, who changed his vote—the last and deciding vote for women’s suffrage, at his mother’s urging.

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The book opens the window even wider on America of 1920, unfolding the changing culture of the day: women casting votes for the first time, the appearance of the Klu Klux Klan, the rising Red Scare, Prohibition, urbanization, automobiles, mass production, chain stores, newsreel coverage, and the transforming of our economy through easy credit.

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In the second portion of his presentation, Pietrusza discussed “The Writer’s Art.”  A recurring message was the relevant and wise advice that many writers do not like to hear: basically, to cut unnecessary words, and then cut some more.  He pointed out that researching a topic yields a vast accumulation of knowledge; however, readers may not find each fact quite so fascinating.  He asked, “Is every word wonderful?” and related the question to publication costs based on word count.

When writing for young readers, Pietrusza explained, he learned how to “ratchet down” his information, making it more concise and more easily comprehended.  He encourages this task as “good learning for all writing.”  He advised setting a writing schedule with a fixed number of words per day as a goal.  All research should be completed before beginning to write, he advised, to avoid lags in progress and extra revisions.  His suggestions for editing one’s own work were very clear.  Pietrusza advocates reading through the manuscript line by line, seven times, asking along the way, “Does this belong?”  If we ponder this question seven times on the same piece, he advises: “If you’re not sure it belongs, then kill it.”

Before concluding, Pietrusza described his experiences of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and screenplay writing, with helpful insights into royalties, advances, right for hire, and copyrights.

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For more information, follow the link: http://www.davidpietrusza.com/index.html  to David Pietrusza’s website.  There you can learn more about his critically-acclaimed works such as: 1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies;  Rothstein: The Life, Times & Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series; Judge and Jury, his biography of baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and much more.

 


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Susanne Presents: Women’s History Guest Author Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner on Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Susanne Marie Poulette:

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I have invited guest author Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D. to present today. Dr. Wagner is the Founding Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, and adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University. A founder of one of the first college-level women’s studies programs in the United States (CSU Sacramento), she holds one of the first doctorates awarded for work in women’s studies (UC Santa Cruz). Her publications include the influence of Indigenous women on the 19th century woman’s rights movement. She wrote the faculty guide for Not for Ourselves Alone, Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and she has appeared in that film and other PBS women’s history programs. Her most recent publication is a chapbook series of Stanton’s edited writings, published by Syracuse Cultural Workers.  Dr. Wagner was selected as one of “21 Leaders for the 21stCentury” by WomensENews.org in 2015.  

If you are unacquainted with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, let me introduce you. Stanton was author, lecturer, and chief philosopher of the woman’s rights movement, framing the agenda for woman’s rights that guided the struggle to the present day.  One of the most forward thinkers and prolific writers of her time, Stanton is often overshadowed today by her women’s rights colleagues who walked a less radical line.  In 1848, she and four like-minded women gathered and planned the first Women’s Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York.  Together they drafted the Declaration of Sentiments outlining the legal rights and privileges of citizenship that were denied to American women.  Eleven resolutions were adopted, but not without great controversy over Stanton’s inclusion of women’s right to vote. Even Lucretia Mott, one of the “founding five” women warned, “Lizzie, thou wilt make the convention ridiculous.”

Stanton continued her quest for the full rights of citizenship for women beyond the vote. Among them: college education, property ownership, wages earned, inheritance, women’s authority over their own bodies, equal guardianship of children, and civil responsibility.  Stanton accomplished much of this through writing.  She wrote some of the most influential books, documents, tracts, and speeches of the women’s rights movement. She wrote a monthly column in Amelia Bloomer’s magazine Lily, and with Susan B. Anthony, she published a newspaper called The Revolution.  Together with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, she published the first three volumes of History of Woman Suffrage, a seminal work documenting the woman’s suffrage movement.  Stanton published The Woman’s Bible;  her autobiography Eighty Years & More: Reminiscences 1815–1897; and The Solitude of Self,  which she first delivered as a speech at the 1892 convention of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association in Washington, D.C.                                                                            

I am proud and grateful to present Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D.

~~~ 

Sally Roesch Wagner as Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Sally Roesch Wagner as Elizabeth Cady Stanton

THE REAL ELIZABETH CADY STANTON:

REMEMBERING HER ON HER BICENTENNIAL

 By Sally Roesch Wagner

@2015

     We know the iconic Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the plump, grandmotherly founding mother of the women’s rights movement, with her white curls encircling her sweet Martha Washington look-alike face, working from early life until the end for women’s right to vote.   That sanitized Stanton would make her shake those curls in disbelief at the description.  She was much more.

     Stan­ton, in fact, complained that she was “sick of the song of suffrage” by the 1880’s.  The attempt by religious conservatives to destroy the sepa­ration of church and state by placing God in the Constitution and prayer in the public schools seemed to her a far more pressing concern than the vote.  “I would rather live under a government of men alone with religious liberty than under a mixed govern­ment without it,” she confided to a suffra­gist news­paper editor.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

     From clerical opposition to women speaking in pubic to wearing the “Bloomer” trousers to demanding equality, the church had stood in the way of woman’s progress. “I have passed from the political to the religious phase of this question,” she wrote a friend, “‘for I now see more clearly than ever, that the arch enemy to woman’s freedom skulks behind the altar.”  With her typical boldness, Stanton drew together a Revising Committee of scholars and ministers to compile a Woman’s Bible, which interpreted the Scrip­tures from the perspective of women.  Affronted by the name, as well as the content, clergy denounced the book as “the work of the devil himself,” to which Stanton calmly responded, “His Satanic Majesty was not invited to join the Revising Committee, which consists of women alone.”

     As suffrage faded in importance for Stan­ton, the larger issues of women’s rights be­came the most important ones.  She brought the strength of her voice and pen to attack the religious and legal denial of divorce to women who were sexually and physically abused in marriages.  The press, in turn, at­tacked her for her unorthodox views.  Still, after her lectures, a flood of women came up to share their experiences.  “Plantation slav­ery is nothing to these unclean marriages,” she wrote in her journal.  “The women gladly hear the new gospel so let the press howl.”   

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with daughter Harriot, 1856

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with daughter Harriot, 1856

     Every child born, she firmly believed, should be chosen, and every woman should be the “absolute sovereign” of her own body.  A woman should have the right “to become a mother or not as her desire, judgment and conscience may dictate,” contended Stanton.

       Nor did she give a hoot for public reaction to her ultra-views on economic injustice. “In this world of plenty, every human being has a right to food, clothes, decent shelter, and the rudiments of education.  Something is rotten in Denmark, when 1/10 of the human family, booted and spurred, rides the masses to de­struction,” she wrote in her autobiography.  For women, the burden was the hardest, for “woman is the great unpaid laborer of the world,” she correctly analyzed, “the upstairs maid with no wages.”

     At the huge gathering called by the National Council of Women to commemorate the 80th birthday of this grandmotherly figurehead of the woman’s rights movement, Stanton documented the progress women had made. Remembering back to how horrified “our con­ser­vative friends” were when she and a few women called for a meeting to “dis­cuss their disabilities,” in the summer of 1848, she recalled that they said, “You have made a great mistake, you will be laughed at from Maine to Texas and beyond the sea; God has set the bounds of woman’s sphere and she should be satisfied with her posi­tion.”  “Their prophecy was more than real­ized,” Stanton reminisced, as “we were unsparingly ridiculed by the press and pulpit both in England and America.”  How sentiments had changed in 47 years, as “many conventions are held each year in both countries to dis­cuss the same ideas; social customs have changed; laws have been modified” and “that first convention, con­sidered a ‘grave mistake’ in 1848, is now referred to as ‘a grand step in progress.’”

     With local and state victories under their belt, a full guarantee of women voting was only a matter of time.  “We who have made our demands on the State have nearly finished this battle,” for “the principle is practically conceded,” Stanton stated.

     Now it was time, she told the “thousands of welcoming faces” paying tribute to her on November 12, 1895 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City,  to go to the source of the problem. “As learned bishops and editors of religious newspapers are warning us against further demands for new liberties, and clergy­men are still preaching sermons on the ‘rib origin,’ and refuse to receive women as dele­gates to their synods, it is evident that our demands for equal recognition should now be made of the Church for the same rights we have asked of the State for the last fifty years, for the same rights, privileges and immunities that men enjoy.” The Bible, like all documents written by man, is imperfect and limited by the prejudices of men at the time it was written.  From time to time these documents are revised, like we have done with the Constitution, to reflect the changes in society.  And now, she asserted, “We must demand that the canon law, the Mosaic code, the Scriptures, prayer books and liturgies be purged of all invidious distinctions of sex, of all false teaching as to woman’s origin, character and destiny.” It is time, Stanton said, to rewrite the Bible.

     “I shall not grow conservative with age,” Stanton had promised. She kept her promise to the end.

~~~

Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner

Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner

 

This segment is adapted from “The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Collection” chapbook series, published by Syracuse Cultural Workers and available for purchase from http://www.sallyroeschwagner.com.

 

        Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Wagner,    ~ SMPoulette

To visit Dr. Wagner online and link to her video performances, go to http://www.sallyroeschwagner.com.                                                                          To link directly to videos: http:// http://www.sallyroeschwagner.com/ecsbible/                  http://www.sallyroeschwagner.com/ecsmotherhood/

Click on the photo for information about Dr. Wagner’s 2015 Elizabeth Cady Stanton Bicentennial Tour:                                                                                                          p_solitude_self

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To learn more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

Address by Elizabeth Cady Stanton on Woman’s Rights, September 1848: http://ecssba.rutgers.edu/docs/ecswoman1.html

National Women’s History Museum:   https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/elizabeth-cady-stanton/

PBS Not For Ourselves Alone: http://www.pbs.org/stantonanthony/resources/index.html?body=biography.html

National Park Service, Women’s Rights Historical Park:  http://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/elizabeth-cady-stanton.htm

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self,” address before the U. S. Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage, February 20, 1892:  http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/history/dubois/classes/995/98F/doc43.html

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments,”  delivered at the first women ‘s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848:   http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/senecafalls.asp

 

 


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Take a Fascinating Australian Adventure with J.R. Rogers’s Magical Novel, “The Gift of Sunderland”

By Peggy Morehouse

A novel has the power to take its readers to a whole new world where they’ll meet enchanting characters and embark on thrilling journeys. Author J.R. Rogers has created a trip worth taking with her Australian Fantasy Adventure series. She just released her second book in the series and is here to tell us all about it:

  1. The Gift of Sunderland is the second in a series? Tell us where you came up with the idea for this magical story and what audience would enjoy it most?

J.R.: I have enjoyed reading and writing for many years. It’s just one of my passions. My other passion is animals. Fascinated with all creatures as a child, (I had an iguana, a snake, mice, a dog, and a cat, several birds, and an occasional gold fish). The unusual animals that can only be found in Australia captivated me. One day I realized that I could combine these two loves, thus the Australian Fantasy Adventure series was born. My aim was to entertain while educating young readers, not just about some weird marsupial down under, but about the plight of threatened animals all around the world. I wrote it for the middle grade crowd, ages 8-12, but I am finding that everyone loves a great character. It doesn’t matter if that character happens to be a numbat or a quoll. Oh, don’t recognize those animals? Check out the book—the glossary at the back has the info.

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The next book is entitled, The Last Ayer, and it’s on the drawing board now. This is the exciting time, the creative and imaginative time, and I love every minute.

  1. The setting for your novel series is Australia. How much is based on fact and how much is based on fiction?

J.R.: Yes, the fantasy is loosely based on the Australian landscape. In this fantasy world, called Sunderland, there is mention of actual places in Australia. So the only factual information is the animals themselves and some particular places that were made a part of the story. Anything real has been placed in the glossary so that my readers can obtain more information about those animals and places.

For example, the final battle in The Gift of Sunderland, takes place beneath a mountain called Mt. Olga. The Olgas are a geological formation at the red center of Australia. While I was in Australia I took some pictures of the Olgas from a helicopter.

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Mt. Olga was named after Grand Duchess Olga of Russia (daughter of Czar Nicholas).  In 1993, in recognition of the Aborigines, who actually ‘owned’ the land first, and consider it sacred, Mt. Olga was returned to the Aborigine and is now called Kata Tjuta (Kata Joota), the original Aboriginal name. In my story, I made Kata Tjuta a volcano. It is not a volcano. That’s called poetic license, and I sometimes go over the speed limit. ☺

I also took some liberties with the animals. Most of the animals in the story are native to Australia. However, there are a few that are not, and I make this clear in the glossary.

  1. Your characters are intriguing and original. Can you tell us just a little about techniques you use when developing characters? 

J.R.: I have to admit that I don’t see my characters as animals. I see them as people. They speak to me and I envision them in conversations, interacting with one another and having all the traits that you might see in a human. I just simply don’t distinguish between a creature and a person. The fact that they are talking and walking upright is natural to me. As a result of this mindset, I can easily build individual characters based on habits and traits that can be attributed to people.

For example, in The Gift of Sunderland, there is a bilby named, Simkin. He’s a wonderful little guy, but he’s insecure and nervous. I gave him a human quality by having him constantly biting his ‘claws.’ In the picture below, Waylond, one of the main characters, is holding Simkin, while Simkin does what comes naturally, frets.

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I also rely heavily on my illustrator, Guy Atherfold. Typically, when I begin putting together my ideas for a book, I will write to him and ask him for what I call, ‘an inspiration sketch.’ I provide him with a few paragraphs of what I am envisioning in prose, and he creates a picture for me. You’d be surprised how much this helps to light a fire in my belly, and drive my story and its characters forward. It’s all imagination and fun!

  1. How long did it take you to write The Gift of Sunderland? Did you travel to Australia as part of your research?

The Gift of Sunderland took about a year and a half to write. Yes, I did have the opportunity to go to Australia and I was able to see many of the animals that roam the book, and even some that don’t. It was the culmination of a dream come true, and the research and information I accumulated when I was there is invaluable. I am still reeling from the experience. It is something I will never forget. Given the opportunity (and the funds!), I would go back in a NY second.

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5. Please tell us about when you first decided that writing was a vocation you wanted to pursue?

J.R.: I spent more than thirty years working in the private sector. It is amazing what one will do when they are raising a family and have bills to pay. But all the while, in my spare time, I read, read and read some more. Then I wrote and wrote again. I also spent much time reaching out to fellow writers to learn more about the publishing business and what I needed to do to become the best writer I could be. I believe the desire to write is something that springs from deep within. I just can’t bear to see a pen and a blank piece of paper standing idle. ☺ I retired in 2013 and I haven’t looked back. I don’t see writing as a job; it’s a wonderful opportunity. Needless to say, I have done and seen some exciting things while pursuing a writing career, and I have made some fabulous new friends along the way. As Fergal, the quoll would say in The Gift of Sunderland, ‘the journey has been worth the walk.’

              6.   What frustrations did you encounter on your novel writing journey? How did you move past them? Do you have any words of wisdom for people considering writing a novel or a memoir?

J.R.: When I started my first book, The Sword of Demelza, I was still working full time. That was a frustration that has absolutely no description. I would sit at my desk in the office and envision a scene that I wanted to put in my story. I would find myself writing notes on scraps of paper and trying to organize myself when I got home. When I finally got home, I spent real time writing. It took me four years of work to put together The Sword of Demelza.

Writing The Sword of Demelza, was a learning experience and I drained every last drop from it, and poured it into book two, The Gift of Sunderland.

My advice to writers, who are planning on leaping into the publishing fray, is do your homework first. Once you’ve decided what genre you’re going to write, research your competition, and read as many books as you can in your chosen genre. Then establish a platform from which you will introduce your work to the world. Establish a focus, a passion that’s yours. Have the courage to be daring and different. Leave the vampires and the werewolves behind and trek into a strange new land that only you can own, but are willing to share.

Memoirs are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. They are difficult in that if you are hoping to land an agent or editor and head toward the traditional publishing route, you’ll encounter problems. If you’re not someone famous like Stephen King, or Napoleon Bonaparte, you won’t get much consideration. The agents will, more than likely want to know who you are and will the reading public really want to know about your life. I have read some stunning memoirs recently. They are impeccably written and, in my opinion, worthy of attention. However, the authors are not famous people and cannot seem to capture the spotlight.

However, there are other reasons to write a memoir that include passing on to your family something of importance to them. It may be an incident that will memorialize a person or a family’s experience. One never knows, if it is written well, and has some universal message, it may catch fire.

Writers need tenacity and passion. They have something to share and should do so. It’s like exposing one’s heart and soul to the world, and there are readers out there who want to experience it. WRITE ON!

About the Author

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J.E. Rogers is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University. Infused with a reverence for life, she loves animals and has always been especially intrigued by the unusual animals that can only be found in Australia. In avid student of every facet of the country, Rogers’ love all things Australian has flowed into her books. She hopes to spark an interest in young readers to the flora and fauna of Australia while engaging them in a wildly imaginative tale of adventure.

She spends much of her time blogging and speaking to youngsters, at libraries, schools, and museums, about endangered and threatened animals around the globe. She wants children to understand that we are connected with all life on this planet, and that animals are our fellow creatures and we share this world with them. It is our responsibility to protect them.

Jeanne lives in Connecticut with her family, which includes two dogs, and two cats.

You can reach her at:

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Lions and Tigers, and BESTSELLERS? Oh My!

Bleak_House_frontispiece

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

I came across an article on the Writer’s Digest website by guest author Kevin Kaiser, entitled The Dark Side of Being a Bestseller. My glasses almost flew off my nose with my sweeping double take. There’s a dark side to being a bestselling author? What a notion.

What a notion to consider while I’m still agonizing over yet another revision of my manuscript. Is my protagonist sufficiently scintillating? Does my plot suffer from Swiss cheese look-alike? Has my narrative arc drooped in the center like McDonald’s golden arch? Will it ever be good enough to snag an agent? Would anybody ever want to read it—never mind, pay money for it? As a writer, I stew over these and more issues, but I always soldier on undaunted. Until this.

What a notion, this dark side. Now I’ll be facing Heathcliff’s bleak, windswept moors, and groveling for more gruel in Dickens’ workhouse, if Heaven forbid, I become a bestselling author. If the day ever came, would I find the courage to muddle through it?

 

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All kidding aside, I’ll share some excerpts from Kaiser’s excellent article:

“Expectations…
A New York Times bestselling novelist once told me, “You’ll never be as free as you are at the beginning. It’s easy to forget how to take risks and write as if no one is watching.” She went on to explain how success creates a cycle that few authors know how to handle expertly, especially when recognition comes early.

Fear…
Success begets success…authors who were once large fish in a small pond find success… find themselves surrounded by others who have sold more books than them, command a vastly larger platform…they often slip back into the comparison game…the game always leads to self-sabotage and fear. Fear of missing out, fear of not being successful enough, fear of being found out as a fraud…No amount of money will quiet those fears, which is why refusing to play the game at all is so important.

Only one thing really matters.
The point isn’t having written, as many are so fond of saying, but the actual activity of creating that matters most. You see, once you’ve released a story into the world it no longer belongs to you. The reader brings their world to the edge of yours and what they experience from there is a process we don’t control… It’s the love of the craft, our surrender to the art of exploring and illuminating new ideas that matters most.

Act Like No One is Watching
Write as if no one is watching. Write as if no one will ever read it or judge your work. That’s where the magic lies, and that is ultimately what readers want to experience, too.… You’re never as free as you are right now, and the beautiful thing is that you can choose just how free you really are.”

I encourage other starving writers to visit  http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-dark-side-of-being-a-bestseller and read his full article.

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There’s a plethora of epic tales out there today, on websites, in books on publishing, news articles, and told at writers’ conferences, all decrying the current state of publishing. The chances of breaking in as a new author border on the miraculous. An experienced writer and expert on self-publishing recently told me that she felt her chance of being struck by lightning was better than getting her first novel publishing traditionally.

Authors whose books are picked up and sold by major publishing houses are required to do more and more of their own marketing, often with minimal returns for their investment. Since writers are usually writers, and not marketers, I wonder how much actual writing time is diverted from art to business.

Traditional publishing is a changing landscape today, affected by a variety of factors including successful self-publishers and low returns of digital book sales. Bestselling author and ghostwriter Michael Levin, at Ghost Business, suggests that the concept of bestseller means less today than it once did. As one example, he cites authors’ popular strategy of tipping the scales by using Amazon’s hourly sales recalculations to create bestselling status.                                                                                                                                                                                  

robert KDeepak Chopra cautions and advises us in his article for the Huffington Post, Advice to New Writers: Go Where the Readers Are (and Why You Cannot Trust the Best Seller List). He points to a fading publishing industry, citing declining sales of traditional books and rapidly rising e-books sales.

Chopra writes about the “disappearing best-seller:”

“For two weeks I’ve been on a national book tour to promote a new novel called God: A Story of Revelation. The book sold more than twice the number to make most bestseller lists in its opening week, and enough to stay on the lists the second week. But neither happened. God appeared on no lists, and the explanations varied: a computer glitch that failed to register sales, the down-grading of bulk sales when lots of people attend a single event.
…Even established writers feel aggrieved when they deserve to make the best-seller list and yet don’t. Book chains base their future orders on these lists, and the week’s best-sellers get prominent displays up front.”

In order to break in, Chopra advises new writers to explore alternatives to the old system: “…self-promotion and going where the readers are…new writers can find their readers, target them, and speak directly to them as never before. This is thanks to the Internet, Facebook, blogs, Amazon’s open policy about e-books, Facebook, and other social media. Like it or not, successful writers are probably going to turn into book entrepreneurs at the same time. Publishers are becoming more and more risk averse. In a few years, no writers will be given advances except the most guaranteed sellers. The rest will enter into partnership with their publishers.”

Chopra also encourages new writers “…not to write for praise… Write to be noticed, which means in the end writing from the heart.”

Deepak Chopra

So yes, there are dark sides, down sides, and risks in getting our books out there. But if we’re writing from the heart, as Chopra advises, then maybe we’re already enriched. With or without that best seller or best earner, can’t we feel some fulfillment in our journeys of sharing our stories? I was recently asked to write my goal for an upcoming writer’s workshop that I plan to attend. It’s not about fame or money, or the New York Times lists, but oh, that would be so lovely!  For me, it’s about writing better stories that will help readers to laugh, feel happy, and be uplifted.

quill

 

To read Deepak Chopra’s article, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/god-a-story-of-revelation_b_1956477.html