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So, How’s YOUR Novel Coming Along?

By Susanne Marie Poulette

Yes, we’re already 5 days into NaNoWriMo, that is, November’s National Novel Writing Month.  This means that we only have twenty-five days left to write thumb-1330516229411-img_864150,000 words, that is, if we haven’t already put our noses to the grindstone, or more specifically, to the keyboard.

NaNoWriMo issues a challenge to write 50,000 words from the beginning to the end of November.  There are write-ins across the nation where future bestselling authors are gathered, hunched over their electronic devices, pecking away, each creating that coveted magnum opus that is sure to seal a deal.  Whether writers are grouped or individual, the NaNoWriMo website provides an online community of support and motivation.  The idea is to get the 50,000 words written. No procrastinating, no excuses, no kidding, period. The stated goal is first draft completion, not perfection. Editing and revision take place later on, during some other thirty day marathon.

I’ve noticed that some writers pooh-pooh NaNoWriMo.  Maybe they’re purists, or realists?  Others say it’s just the right catalyst they need to get their ideas from gray matter to finger tips.  If NaNoWriMo  motivates folks to follow their dreams, so be it.  I think writing leads us to discover our creativity and yields a sense of accomplishment, whether or not our coffee-stained, dog-eared manuscripts find their way to a bookstore shelf.  Writing for the pleasure it brings. 

What do you think?  I’d love to read your comments.

I know I couldn’t write 50,000 words of quality work with unforgettable characters in just 30 days. Hats off to anyone who has done this. You are a better writeslowboattochina_zpsd36485aer than I am. My own novel, coming along on the SS Slow Boat from China, has lived about 2600 – 3000 days, and is still a work in progress.

For anyone interested, Writer’s Digest has an online article, NaNoWriMo Prep: 30 Tips for Writing a Book in 30 Days, by Jessica Strawser.  Click on the boat to follow the link and learn more.   ~~

 

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Clifton Park – Halfmoon Library, October 2015. Photo by SMPoulette

Speaking of writing novels, and sorry about this lame segue, I recently had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Pulitzer Prize winning author Anthony Doerr, thanks to the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library.  Doerr’s book, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE,all the light (2) has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 77 weeks, to date.  If you haven’t read the book, I won’t spoil it. I will give the basics, however.  This story takes place in France during World War II, with a blind French girl, and a German boy with a genius for radio waves (which exist, but which we cannot see).

 

Doerr explained his writing process for this novel, and rather than thirty days, this one took a decade.  (Ten years! Be still my heart, there might be hope for me yet.) He described his writing as putting together pieces of a large puzzle, beginning with his time spent in France garnering ideas, imagery, story line, and characters, and his research in period history as well as the nature and physics of light.  His book is written from two main points of view, and his chapters switch between the two main characters, and then alternate in time, non-sequentially from before, during, and after the war.

Many of the 187 chapters are short, some just a single page.  Doerr said he did not write the chapters in the order that a reader would read them.  For instance, he worked on the ending long before he wrote the middle chapters. Sometimes he worked longer on the German boy’s sections, and then on the blind girl’s story, following wherever the muse took him.Anthon D

If  interested, go to Doerr’s website to read some of his work online, and watch actor Damian Lewis reading from Doerr’s story “The Deep.”  Click on Anthony Doerr’s photo to reach his website.   ~~

 

John-glasses-bw-high-res-199x3002John Irving has an interesting writing process.  He’s currently on tour with his latest novel, AVENUE OF MYSTERIES.  I caught his recent interview on the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert.

Camera    Click on the camera to watch Irving explain his writing process.

story time clip artTo watch Irving having fun reading a bedtime story in a skit with Colbert, click on the chicken.  Full disclosure: this video might make you laugh.

It seems remarkable to me that Irving hand writes all his novels.  He explained that handwriting allows time for fewer mistakes, in a pace that he believes is right for him. Going slowly, he takes a long time to develop characters with whom one can sympathize.

Irving told  Shaul Schwarz of Writers Write that he irving-avenue-mysteries-30-45not only writes in longhand, but he uses both sides of the paper. He added that when he was writing THE CIDER HOUSE RULES he came to the realization that he writes best when starting with the ending of the story. Irving said this technique “never lets him down.”  He writes the last sentence of a story, and then “writes toward that sentence.”  Fascinating, but it boggles my linear mind.

Irving’s first novel, SETTING FREE THE BEARS, was published in 1968.  THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, Irving’s fourth, won the National Book Award in 1980 and was his first international bestseller. In 2000, John Irving won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES.  For more about John Irving, click on his book to link to his website.    ~~

 

 

 cal for blogSo, I’ll ask again, how’s your novel coming along? No interest in writing?  That’s ok too.  Certainly, writers need readers, in fact we love them.  What would we do without them?

Whether writers are pounding out 50,000 words in thirty days, or taking more time, as described by John Irving and Anthony Doerr, the point is, just go ahead and do it. It’s your story, from your heart, you’re the boss of it, and no one can tell you it’s wrong. As my dear friend Peggy says, quoting Wayne Dwyer, “Don’t die with your music still inside you…”  If you have a story to tell, find your voice, take as long as you want, and enjoy sharing it in your own good time.  I’d love to read it.                                                 

©  Susanne Marie Poulette

 

 

 

 

 

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SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE…BOOK DEAL?

How long does it take to write a book, including revisions?

“What?  You wrote a novel in one year?  That’s crazy, it takes years to write a novel.” This was a friend’s response when I gave her the news.  At the time, I thought she was really off base.  Years?  What was she thinking? 

eight lives to finish novelBut here we are, a century later, and I’m still revising, rewriting, and rethinking my manuscript. Well, it hasn’t been exactly a century, but it feels like it. It’s a little less than that—let’s make that seven years later. So I’m the unwitting proof of my friend’s hypothesis.    

Writing my novel has been a slow and steady labor of love. It must be the longest labor ever experienced by any woman who ever roamed this planet.  I’m hoping for the day when this baby is finished gestating! 

I’m wondering:

Fellow WRITERS, how about you?  How long have you been working on the same project?  If you’ve completed your book and its revisions, how long did it take?

Fellow READERS, when you’re deep into a great read, do you ever wonder how long it took the author to write that book?                                                                                           

snoopy_writing

Online and in magazines for writers, I’ve seen trillions of articles, businesses, books, and other opportunities that practically guarantee writing success in its many forms.  I started a search to find the remedy to my snail’s pace and lack of progress in snagging an agent.  Reading the titles, I became rapturously encouraged and giddy with hope that I had found my manuscript’s deliverance.  Yes, with these resources and a few months of installment payments, I could be published!  No doubt.  Can you say: SUCCESS

I’d like to share my findings with you, but to protect the innocent, I’m only offering titles in these lists.  (You’re welcome to Google, too. Remember, “God helps those who help themselves.”)  I’ll also share my comments and questions, FYI.  Have fun!

My List of Sure-Fire Paths to Publication

On writing a best seller…

best seller

How To Write A Bestseller In 40 Days Or Less

How To Write A Bestseller In A Weekend

Well, I’ll be…did I waste eight years of writing?  Dang.

~~~

On writing just plain successful novels…

sucess

How To Write A Successful Novel 

How To Write Successful Nonfiction

I get it now— successful books take longer to write than best sellers. 

~~~

On secrets…

Self-Publishing Secrets

The Secret To Writing A Bestselling Novel ~ Tell me!  Tell me!

Are they really SECRETS if they’re all over the internet?

~~~

On learning how to write…

school_desk

The Best Writing Instruction On The Web – New Workshops Start Weekly 

How To Add Tension In Your Scenes  ~ Eh, I’ve got plenty of tension already. 

Top Ten Errors Writers Make That Editors Hate  ~ Yeah, but if writers didn’t make errors, would editors still have jobs? 

~~~

On getting started…

How To Hook Your Reader   hook In The First Sentence

Get An Agent With Your First 10 Pages

Eight Things First-Time Novelists Need To Avoid 

How about eight things first-time novelists need to DO?

~~~

On the subject of query letters…

killer whale

How To Write A Killer Query

How Not To Write A Killer Query

Huh? But I don’t want to KILL an agent!

~~~

The Holy Grail, better known as getting published…

HolyGrail

Learn How To Write And Publish Your Memoir In 10 Painless Steps!  ~ Ibuprofen?

Write And Sell Your Mystery, Suspense, Or Thriller Novel For Any Market

How To Get Your Book Published In Six Painful Steps  — Ouch.

How To Get Your Nonfiction Book Published By A Mainstream Publisher

Step By Step Guide To Publishing Your Novel

How To Get Your Book Published – For Dummies  ~Yada yada, I want to know how THIS dummy gets published! 

~~~

On your writing career…

money_books

Get Paid For Your Writing     ~ Ya think?   

                                Write For Publication!  ~ Duh, what else would I do with it?  Stock the OUTHOUSE?

Enhance Your Writing Career In 3 Months

How To Be A Ghostwriter     ~ Do I have to be dead to be a ghostwriter?

~~~

Before you give up…

don't give up

It’s Time To Finally Get Published

Publish Your Book Today!

Piece of cake…eh?

       ©  Susanne Marie Poulette

      


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My Takeaways From The Unicorn Writers’ Conference

By Susanne Marie Poulette

unicorn 004

It was another great conference this year.  Kudos to Jan Kardys, and all the dedicated organizers and staff of the Unicorn Writers’ Conference!  Now, my takeaways, as promised:

♦ Stephanie Evanovich gave the keynote address. She’s as funny in person as she is in print, a first class comedian with a drama background, and what a hoot.  Stephanie told about her path to publication, much faster than the typical book launch, but nothing to do with the surname she shares with her aunt, Janet Evanovich.  Although she hasn’t suffered the throes of years of rejections like so many of us, Stephanie made it clear that she understands the frustrations of trying to snag a book deal. Her message was one of encouragement.  She urged writers to persevere, to have confidence in their writing and in their voices, and resist giving up in the face of rejection.  She cautioned against reading one’s own reviews.  Stephanie EStephanie cited an example of a criticism made to her about point-of-view, saying that it threw her for a loop (my words, not an exact quote, but that’s the idea).  I admit that I had the very same experience in a writing group, that sent me reeling, but also sent me researching extensively.  I learned that some comments can be well meaning and helpful, but they can also be incorrect and derail the writing process.

Stephanie said each reviewer has their own opinion, and we can’t please them all.  The important thing is to keep writing and growing as a writer.  She gave big girl pantiesa great example of a poor review when someone apparently got caught up in a Tangle of Names.  The confused reviewer wrote that “Evanovich” should stick to writing about her long-time protagonist, Stephanie Plum—who, by the way, is the star of her Aunt Janet’s series.  So much for reviews, eh?  I do want to add that I just picked up Stephanie’s latest book.  I have this annoying habit of laughing out loud while reading, (it annoys others, not me) and this book doesn’t help me break that pattern.  If you like a good laugh, you’ll enjoy Big Girl Panties.

 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

♦ Beena Kamlani is a senior editor at Penguin Viking, an award winning author, and professor.  Due to a review appointment, I attended only the first half of her workshop on editing. How I wish I could have heard more.  I’d love to pop downstate to Hunter College and take her editing course.  She speaks beautifully about the art of writing. I’ll share my snippets:

Memoir: Never overextend the readers, let the book reveal your story, bit by bit. Immediacy is important, let readers drink it in, in the present tense. Make them see what you saw, and let your feelings for what you saw speak to them.

Fiction: Drop breadcrumbs for the reader and follow through with a reason for everything. Don’t reveal too much all at once. Dramatize, don’t tell everything. All dialog has to have a reason, but what characters don’t say is as important as what they do say. It heightens interest when the reader doesn’t know. Think about what makes you turn the page. Don’t refresh the reader’s memory, trust the reader to remember, and continue on with your story.

Click on the book for a video of Beena Kamlani describing how a developmental editor works with an author on the path to publication:

♦ Lane Heymont, literary agent and author, presented “World Building,” that is, creating settings.  He described the infrastructure of a story, creating a consistent society with norms, culture, and rules.  Setting needs a history to give the sense of its existence.  It should be realistic, using the five senses to build a unique world, but it has to make sense.  Share the world of your setting throughout the book, not all at once, and get to the action right away.

Lane suggests making a setting sketch and provided a downloadable handout for those who attended his workshop.  Since it’s out there on the web, it may be fair game if you want to take a peek: http://laneheymont.com/blog/.

 

Reid Castle, Unicorn Writers' Conference, August, 2015

Reid Castle, Unicorn Writers’ Conference, August, 2015

♦ Eliza Shallcross, author, editor, and copywriter with 30 years of experience, presented “Book Copy as a Marketing Tool.”  Before this workshop, I didn’t have a clue about “book cover copy,” or any of its numerous components.  Apparently, book cover copy services ( good tongue twister?) are part of the traditional publishing process, but I wonder how many self-publishing authors are aware of all the marketing factors involved in cover copy.  So what is it?  It applies to all types of books, hardcover, mass market paperback, trade paperback, and eBook. It’s everything that goes on a book’s front and back covers, and flaps.  It’s the artwork, title, tag line (short teaser), author’s name with photo and biography, quotes from reviews, story description, and more, all within word count limitations.  The book cover itself is the marketing tool, appealing to the reader and growing the author’s readership. Eliza Shallcross provides individual editing and copywriting services. You can find her at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizashallcross.

_pearls_of_wisdom

Sorry, but I’m hoarding the pearls of wisdom from my two excellent one-to-one manuscript review sessions (first 40 pages).  All kidding aside, the reviews were invaluable, and I’m hard at work making revisions based on their suggestions. The Unicorn Writers’ Conference provides these affordable, 30-minute sessions with agents, editors, and speakers.  I hope you can attend this conference and the review session opportunities next year.

© S M Poulette

 

 


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Take that Story Beyond Z-ebra!

By Peggy Morehouse

Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss?

All of those life lessons wrapped up in rhymes:

lessonsbydrseuss1

His enchanting characters:

seuss015f

 

His fantastical illustrations:

dr_seuss_art

 

He even gives advice on taking care of our home:

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and love:

il_fullxfull_324750924

That’s why I called on the good doctor when I began to revise my novel after it was finished. The End had been stamped on the final page and I had sent out query letters to several literary agents. Time to close the laptop, stretch out my fingers, and take a break before starting novel three. Get on with other activities like hiking through nature, watching the sun rise, and lounging on my kayak on some lake somewhere.

“Stop,” says Mr. Literary Agent. “You’re not quite finished with novel number two.”

I straighten up. “Yes I am. I wrote The End on page 392. A high flying editor told me ‘You’re all set to hit send!'”

With a wise grin,  Mr. Literary Agent says, “But what if you did this and tried that.”

“Ohhh!” I say with a rise of my eyes. “That would be so zip-zippity wonderfully good.”

With my tap-tappity fingers still cramped and fatigued, I pull out a gem for a bit of a prod:

On_Beyond_Zebra

I open the book and find what I need:

Then he almost fell flat on his face on the floor

When I picked up the chalk and drew one letter more!

A letter he never dreamed of before!

And he said, “You can stop, if you want with the Z

But not me.

In the places I go there are things that I see

That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.

I’m telling you this cause you’re one of my friends.

My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!” 

With the turn of a page, the fire ignited as I typed with new passion past the end of the end.

 

Many thanks to Mr. Literary Agent, Donald Maass, and Dr. Seuss for inviting me into the world beyond Zebra.

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Growing Inspiration

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

I returned from the Break Out Novel Intensive Workshop in Oregon energized with fresh writing tools and recommendations for my novel. A flood of plans and possibilities crisscrossed my brain and each time I looked at my manuscript I thought, “Not yet.” The seeds of the workshop were germinating but not ready to sprout.

0406151229At the same time, I came back with beautiful images of the workshop setting in the Hood River area. Unlike my home in Saratoga County, New York, Oregon was in the full bloom of spring. Their trees flaunted a rich array of greens and pastel flowers of lilacs, hydrangeas, and mixtures of pink blossoms. Golden daffodils and red tulips lined paths along the conference center, and tiny daisy-like flowers peppered large sections of an adjacent park. If my memory serves me—from my childhood days of eating wild raspberries as fast as I could pick them—the banks along the Columbia River just outside our hotel, teamed with budding raspberry bushes. Everywhere I looked, there was color. Everywhere, new life.

At home, the trees were bare and grass was brown, but, alleluia, the snow was gone. Then, within two days, I noticed tiny buds emerging on sprightly branches all across my yard. I gathered up my gardening tools, and headed to my april 2015 004perennial beds to see what was or was not happening. Then I saw it. Just as the writing workshop’s seeds of inspiration were germinating, so was my garden. By the end of the week, my forsythia bushes sprouted blooms, april 2015 009 the chive was tall enough for salad, and the oregano and day lilies were wild with life. Energized by the season’s promises, I now feel ready to transplant my manuscript’s sprouts from head to page.

For me, working the garden and digging hands deep into the soil is no different from writing. Both tasks require careful, thorough april 2015 011planning. I learned this the hard way when I jumped into my first novel without a road map for my plot. Likewise, I jumped into my first garden by planting 36-inch tall cone flowers in front of 12-inch high lavender, another plot without a map. Fortunately for me, drafts are revised and rewritten, sometimes for years and years. (But that’s another story.) While in the garden, most plants can be moved easily and are usually quite forgiving of the change.

Patience is essential in both writing and gardening. Neither job can be rushed. Each needs its own time to develop, grow deeper, and flourish. Writing and gardening both demand tons of weeding and pruning, yanking and tossing what doesn’t belong, what detracts and chokes.

There are libraries of books on gardens with A to Z growing instructions, designs, and worlds of information. There are books on writing fiction, developing the narrative arc and characters, creating tension, and even producing a breakout novel. But in the end, it’s a personal path in both cases. Yes, we refer to the experts and then throw ourselves into the work, filling it with our individuality, creativity, passion, and preferences. Above all, we want others to take notice of our work and feel as moved by it as we do. We want to touch hearts and lives through the voice of our writings and gardens.

Beatrix Potter is one author who enjoyed gardening and found inspiration there for her writing and her painting.  Marta McDowell’s book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales, is a beautiful accounting of Beatrix Potter’s love of gardening and plants, and how that passion came to be reflected in her work.  McDowell told Joyce Neuman of Garden Variety:

“There are many writers who garden and who write about gardening: Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edith Wharton, Eudora Welty, Emily Dickinson and, of course, Beatrix Potter. Why? Here’s my guess. Writing is a solitary, cerebral pursuit. Gardening is tactile, physical. Writing tends to be indoors, and it is divorced from nature.  All nature is imagined, during the act of writing. Gardening balances that, by connecting the writer to life—plant life, the life in the soil, the insects and animals that the garden attracts and sustains. You can feel alone at the keyboard, but never in the garden.  The garden is also the place to work out writing problems—other problems as well. Emerson said something like “All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”

Beatriix Potter's vegetable gardent at Hill Top, Cumbria, UK

BEATRIX POTTER’S VEGETABLE GARDEN AT HILL TOP, CUMBRIA, UK

You can read McDowell’s complete interview by clicking on the snoozing rabbits in Potter’s garden:

rabs slp

WE have a little garden,                    
A garden of our own,                                   peter r
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.                                   

WE love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faced leaf   
Or blighted blossom there.  

~ Beatrice Potter

View and read a bit about the inspiring gardens of famous writers such as Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Roald Dahl, Virginia Woolfe, Beatrix Potter, and more at The Telegraph’s Twelve Wonderful Writers’ Gardens.  Click on Oregon’s hydrangeas visit:

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ENJOY


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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.

1920

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.

red quill ink

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.

Presentation1

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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Author Robin Antalek Discusses Her Second Novel, The Grown Ups, and Her Writing Journey

By Peggy Morehouse

I’ve become a different kind of reader since I began writing fiction several years ago. It’s not only that I pay more attention to the traits of a fascinating character or the elements of a riveting plot. When I find myself lost in a book, I hold it with admiration. I understand what the author went through to take an idea to a published novel that has the power to sweep me away. Many readers attribute that ability to special talent. A gift that propels a writer to pick up a pen and a notebook and scribe a story that will keep the pages turning into the wee hours of the morning. But it’s so much more than that. It involves hard work and persistence. John Irving, author of The World According to Garp, Cider House Rules, and so many other greats says,

“More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.”

That’s why, when a book is born it’s cause for celebration. In fact, the next time you’re in a bookstore, take a look around. Each creation had a unique, often strenuous, journey to its spot on the shelf. A new book was added to the literary world on January 27, 2015. Author Robin Antalek released her second novel, The Grown Ups, through William Morrow and introduced it at Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY. Susanne of The Writers Loop was at this special event while I was stuck in traffic on the Adirondack Northway. :o(

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The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek

It was welcomed with wonderful reviews including this excerpt from Library Journal, “…an engaging ensemble piece with revealing insights about friendships.” Spanning over a decade, told in alternating voices, The Grown Ups explores the indelible bonds between friends and family and the challenges that threaten to divide them.

grownups3

Robin talks with fans at her book launch, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY.

Robin was kind enough to answer a few questions about The Grown-Ups as well as her writing journey. Her engaging and informative interview follows:

  1. Where did you get your idea for The Grown Ups?

Robin: Before I started writing what would become The Grown Ups, I had just shelved a project I had been working on for two years. My agent told me to take some time and think about what I really wanted to write – but I was still in that feeling sorry for myself stage even though it was my choice not to continue on with the manuscript. One day, I found myself at my local library’s used bookshop, sitting on the floor surrounded by a pile of potential purchases. I was also half-listening to the conversation between the two elderly volunteers, (in my defense it’s a really small space) when one of the women said to the other ‘It was the summer all the children in the neighborhood caught a virus.’ That single sentence captivated me so much I wrote it down inside the cover of one of the books I was going to buy. I thought about it forever until I had a neighborhood, a group of children, a family going through a very public meltdown, a box of provocative photographs and a first kiss between friends. That sentence became the first sentence of The Grown Ups.

2. How long did it take you to write The Grown Ups? What inspired you to begin this novel and take it to completion?

Robin: The first draft was very fast – three months. The editing took about a year. Once I started creating this world there was really no stopping. Originally, I wrote in first person POV from Sam, but then my editor at William Morrow asked me to try writing a few chapters from Suzie and Bella’s points of view. Once I did that the story opened up with the multiple view points, bringing more questions that needed to be answered, and some that couldn’t. But that’s the joy of editing.

3. Tell us about when you first decided that writing was a vocation you wanted to pursue.

Robin: I’ve always been a reader. Writing was the natural evolution. I’ve been doing this in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Some jobs are more lucrative than others. But I took anything I could when I was starting. I wrote ad copy, press releases, and once worked for a business news network writing 30-second business briefs. I wrote for pennies per word or free for experience and a byline. Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do.

4. What frustrations did you encounter on your novel writing journey? How did you move past them?

Robin: I think that the most frustrating part of writing is that sometimes, despite a massive effort, you have to admit that a novel is not working. That’s where I was right before The Grown Ups. The thing to remember is that any writing, whether it becomes a novel or not, is writing. You are honing your craft, you are working the muscle, and that experience allows you to learn what works and what doesn’t by showing up to do your job. That’s half the battle of writing.

5. The road to finding a traditional publisher isn’t easy. What method did you use to make that happen?

Robin: For years I wrote short stories. I also read the literary journals, making lists of my favorites, the maybe not so attainable, and the second tier, the maybe more attainable. I submitted to both. Eventually I moved from generic rejections to more personalized rejections. I took the names on the rejection slips and began submitting directly to them. At the same time I read everything I could get my hands on – and when a book was similar to the kinds of things I wrote, I would read the acknowledgements carefully, for a mention of an agent, (writers always thank their agents) and from that I began to make a list of agents I would query. When I finished my first novel I began querying those agents. This takes a long time. Yes. But chances are if you have only written one short story and think you’re ready for an agent, you’re not. Again, you really have to do the work. There aren’t any short cuts. As a writer you should arm yourself with as much information as possible. Know the market, know the trends, attend readings, buy the book if you can, and be a good member of the literary community. Write what interests you. I have written four novels and published two. The first novel ended up getting me an agent, but the book deal fell apart. The second novel was my first published, The Summer We Fell Apart. During the third novel I parted ways with my agent, acquired a new agent and realized that I didn’t want to continue with that novel. My fourth novel is my second published, The Grown Ups. It’s a journey. You have to be able to be in it in for the long haul. That means you love the writing, you live for the writing, you do the work.

6. Can you tell us about a little about what’s involved with a book launch?

Robin: A book launch is all about the lead-up to publication and then a reading/party that usually happens soon after your on-sale date. My on-sale date is January 27th and the launch is January 29th at Northshire Bookstore. It’s that first debut into the world – and a ton of pre-publication stuff is involved. Mostly interviews, (radio, newspaper, TV) Q & A’s and whatever press opportunities come my way set up by my PR and Marketing team at Harper Collins. It’s a really exciting time this lead up to publication – and you get to talk about the book a lot. This isn’t really a writing time for me – my only writing now is really answering interview questions, writing blog posts etc., and doing all I can to get The Grown Ups out in to the world.

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Robin signs copies of her new novel, The Grown Ups, at Northshire Bookstore on January 29.

7. Do you have any word of wisdom for people considering writing a novel or a memoir?

Robin: You have to write. You have to sit in the chair and do the work. And when you start writing you cannot edit yourself. You have to write until you are uncomfortable. That’s where the honesty comes in. Don’t worry about your parents, your friends, or an anonymous reader. If you want to be a writer then write. It’s that simple.

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Robin Antalek, author of two novels, The Summer We Fell Apart and The Grown-Ups

 

ROBIN ANTALEK is the author of The Summer We Fell Apart (HarperCollins 2010) chosen as a Target Breakout Book and The Grown Ups (William Morrow 2015). Her non-fiction work has been published at The Weeklings, The Nervous Breakdown and collected in the following anthologies, The Beautiful Anthology; Writing off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema; and The Weeklings: Revolution #1 Selected Essays 2012-1013. Her short fiction has appeared in Salon, 52 Stories, Five Chapters, Sun Dog, The Southeast Review and Literary Mama among others. She has twice been a finalist in Glimmertrain Magazine, as well as a finalist for The Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.
You can visit her site @ http://www.robinantalek.com, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobinAntalek

Thank you Robin and congratulations on your success!