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Interview with Vanitha Sankaran, author of WATERMARK

By Susanne Marie Poulette

When I attended the Breakout Novel Intensive workshop last April, I had the pleasure of meeting Vanitha Sankaran, author of Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages (Harper Collins/Avon, 2010),  I must admit that once I started reading her book, I couldn’t put it down.  I was captivated by the protagonist and the beautiful flow of language in her story.  Vanitha kindly agreed to this interview, which I believe will demonstrate the depth and richness of Watermark.

WATERMARK

  • Your protagonist is such a strong, resilient, free-thinking woman, set in the Middle Ages. What inspired the development of Auda’s character? 

To be honest, the character concept came about in a very strange way. When I started what was then a short story, I was not a serious writer, per se. Writing had been a passion of mine since I was very young, but I had set it aside for a more practical career as a biomedical scientist. This story popped out when I was writing my dissertation, and was actually about a very ugly girl (who was the daughter of a   papermaker) who had captured the attention of an aspiring artist. He wanted to draw the unusual turn of her lips, the mismatched slant of her eyes, the strange way she looked at the world and didn’t notice other people making fun of her. He used her father’s paper for his early sketches and made a good sum off them, and of course left her behind and he moved onwards and upwards.

That story didn’t work out, possibly because I didn’t want to write about a girl taken advantage of. I wanted to write about an unusual girl who didn’t fit in, but because she was so far ahead of her peers. Thus was Auda born.

 

  • What was the significance in choosing mutism for Auda?
VanithaSankaran-200x300

                        Vanitha Sankaran

As a historical fiction author and a scientist, realism is never far from my writing. Books and films have seen a surge over the past two decades in terms of having strong capable women as protagonists, and that’s a great thing for literature. I have no doubt strong women have always existed, but perception of what strength means has obviously changed through the years. In this book, Auda’s strength was her thirst for her knowledge, her interest and ability in reading. But I had to need a good reason why the daughter of craftsman would know how to read—again, the realism. Mutism gave me a way for Auda to be that intelligent girl who wrote as a way to find her true voice.

  • You did extensive research on medieval France, including daily life amid widespread Church corruption, as well as the role of papermaking in those times. Were there any particular challenges you met in writing this historical novel?

It’s funny you mention Church corruption because this very well-trodden truth was one facet of my novel that was the hardest for me. It has become fashionable to malign the Catholic Church and especially in the Middle Ages, that reputation is well deserved. But at the same time, I was interested in exploring other nuances behind the Church’s actions. For me, that involved searching for the whys of someone who truly believed burning heretics was saving their souls from a much worse fate. Drawing out that personality was, for me, much harder than researching the ways of medieval life in south France (especially since I have enough of a background in French that I could decipher the much serendipitous books I found about Narbonne in that era). 

  • In reading Watermark, many themes resonated for me. I was particularly struck by the human suffering and gender injustices bred by religious fervor, still rampant in today’s world. Was your intention to make a connection to these present day issues?

Yes, and not just in the human condition, but also in how we develop new ways of communication each other, and how that new communication changes things. As with the advent of paper, the Internet and social media have changed the way we communicate profoundly. A girl who cannot read, has no value as determined by her religion except as property to a man, and who suffers terrible abuse can reach to others like her or those who can help much easier with the Internet. Or, at least, her plight can see the light of day. In its time, paper was also a way for regular people to hear truths they were blind to before. The issues I wrote about in Watermark are still true to today, and sadly, will be true for a long time. But how we overcome injustices and suffering, and how our response continues to change and grow is the connection I really wanted to make.

  • Your book cover is rich and inviting, and the elegant simplicity of your title is intriguing. How did you decide on a one-word title?  Was it your own idea to imbed Martin’s watermark in the cover design?

I had a great cover designer, for certain! I’m not sure whose idea it was to incorporate the watermark in the design but the watermark is something I made out of wire and played with as I explored homemade papermaking using medieval recipes. The title, which I think fits the novel on many different levels, was suggested to me by a writer colleague, Ejner Fulsang.

  • How long did it take to write Watermark? Did it take longer to write it or revise it?

Start to finish the whole process took 8 years. Of course in that time, I had to learn the writing process, or rather my process, finish up my Ph.D., complete an MFA in writing, and hold down a job. J But I think that type of schedule is true for most writers—how many of us can make a living off of our books alone? That said, it was definitely the revising that took longer for me. I knew the start and end of my novel when I began it in earnest, and some of the major highlights. Writing the first draft was painful, but reading it was even more so because I knew how much work it needed to be ready to submit to an agent. But others are lot smarter, quicker, more talented than I am, so no one should take 8 years as any sort of standard!

  • Do you have a particular writing routine that works best for you?

The morning are most productive for me, partly because my attention is focused and partly because I have come to understand that if I don’t make time for my novel, no one else is going to do it for me. Writing my freelance articles and grants, cleaning the house, doing laundry—all of that is important to do but after I get in some good writing hours. Leaving the home from time to time is also a good thing. Not only is it a change of scenery (and research for new character nuances), but it trains you not to be tied to one routine. Have 20 min at the bank? Write some notes to yourself. An hour at the doctor’s? Sketch out a scene. It’s the writing that is important—now when or where or even hw you do it.

  • Are you currently working on another writing project?

Yes. I am working on another historical novel, this time about how printed propaganda sways an election in Renaissance Venice, and also a young adult novel that explores how the existence of other worlds has affected our mythologies and beliefs.

  • What advice would you give to budding novelists like me, who never seem to be finished revising their manuscripts?

quillKeep writing. Write more. If your current story isn’t working, put it aside and work on something else. Analyze books that you love. Learn why they work. Then come back to your project and look at what you are missing. Writing Watermark took me 8 years. Writing the second book is almost taking me as long, because I am working on a different project from a different point of view. That’s okay with me (most days). I want to keep learning, and I think that learning process bears out in every author’s writing.

But most of all, don’t lose faith in yourself. There’s plenty of other writers who won’t believe in you. Believe in yourself, and when you feel the book is done, send it out and  listen to the feedback you get. No one said this was easy. But it is worth it.

  • Is there anything that you would like to add for our readers?

If you love a book that you read, tell someone about it. It could be loaning a copy to a best friend, telling your community librarian, or sharing why you loved it online. The thing that absolutely connects writers and readers is our love for a good story. And if you’re a writer who loves someone else’s work, that goes double! Good books propagates more good books, and there are never enough.

Thank you! I am so honored you wanted me to be a part of your blog! – Vanitha

Thank YOU, Vanitha Sankaran

To learn more about Vanitha Sankaran, visit her website: http://www.vanithasankaran.com/

 

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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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Brain Picking, Genre Picking

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

puppy all aloneIt’s a little lonely here at the Writers’ Loop without Peggy!     Readers, please let me know if you’re still out there.

You can do that by allowing me to pick your brain. Then, I’ll ask you to post a comment.  Here it goes:

I’m gearing up for the Unicorn Writers’ Conference next weekend (You can check it out by following the UpComing Events link on the sidebar.). On Friday, I’ll attend a Genre Dinner, my very first.  Apparently, it’s a working dinner and a great time to network with writers in my genre.  I’m looking forward to the experience and meeting new contacts. But here’s the catch: my novel crosses and blends so many genre boundaries that it doesn’t fit neatly or even sloppily, into just one category.  This prompts me to wonder which genres are most appealing to the readers of this blog.

book shelves

So, you can help me, if you will, by letting me know which, if any, of these fiction categories appeal to you: Women’s Commercial, Coming-of-Age (Adult), Nostalgic, Magical Realism, Pop Culture, or Humor. Would you mosey toward any of these shelves in your library or favorite bookstore?  Where would you linger?  Which genre might you pluck from the rack, snoop through, and/or peruse its dust jacket or back cover?  Any chance that you’d want to read the whole book, or…purchase it?

My next research survey is pretty straightforward, but it comes with a disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for food cravings or excessive salivation in the analogy that follows.

Now, my question. When one calls up Pizza Lean-to and orders an extra large (pizza 2guessing that one has the munchies for pizza) it’s usually custom made just for you.  You can get almost any topping that your little heart, or tummy desires, even anchovies.

And what about fiction?  If you could call up, oh, let’s say, Harper Collins Publishers, and order a novel written just for you, what toppings, what ingredients would you want?  Which elements of fiction would your novel have: mystery, humor, history, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, crime, western, _________?  (That last one’s a special-order-fill-in-the-blank, just for you.)  Would you order another werewolf, more shades of erotica, or maybe a novel that warms your heart, lifts your spirits and makes you smile?  Just wondering.  Please let me know.

And sorry, no; I’m not taking any pizza orders at this time.  You might want to try Pizza Lean-to.

I hope you’ll post a comment and let me know your opinion.  I’ll be so grateful. Thanks in advance!

SMP

 

 

 

 

 

 


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What’s the Deal with Writers’ Conferences? 

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

Three years ago, I attended my first writers’ conference.  It proved to be all that was promised, and considerably wipmore.  So, if I got so much out of it, why am I registered for a conference in August?  Do I need another one?   Why?

The internet is chock full of articles like, “Ten Reasons to go to Writers’ Conferences,” and “Five Benefits of Attending a Writers’ Conference,” and, well, you get the idea.  Let’s look at the issue from a different perspective and not reinvent the wheel here.  I propose,  “Top Ten Reasons Why You Should NOT Attend a Writers’ Conference.”

10.  Don’t go if you already know everything there is to learn about the craft of writing, or, if you don’t like to learn, period.

9.    Pass it up if you’re an expert on the publishing industry’s process.

8.    Stay away if other writers and authors bore you to tears.

7.    Skip it if you’ve had it up to here with inspiration and can’t take another drop.

6.    Don’t bother if you have tons of positive feedback on your manuscript, and readers are picketing your home until they get a published copy.

5.    Forget it if the last thing you need or want is a one-on-one manuscript critique with a high-powered literary agent, editor, or famous author.

4.    Sit it out if you have nothing more to learn about establishing a platform.

3.    Don’t even think of it if you get creeped out by being around literary agents and editors.

2.    Bag it if you think best-selling authors have no business teaching a workshop on writing.

And the NUMBER ONE Top Ten Reason Why You Should NOT Attend a Writers’ Conference:

1.    Avoid it entirely if you really don’t care about being a successful author.

 

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All kidding aside, I highly recommend taking advantage of writers’ conferences.  In my two experiences, I met literary agents who critiqued my work, encouraged me, and offered fresh ideas to improve my plot and characters. Among a vast array of workshops, I learned about pitching my book to an agent; writing with humor; “show don’t tell;” self-publishing; maximizing platform; query letter writing, and more.  Keynote speakers are typically best-selling authors who inspire and encourage, often telling the stories of their paths to success in publishing. I found that meeting other writers, connecting with authors, sharing ideas, and networking at conferences all provide a wonderful, energizing experience.

On August 15th, I’ll attend the Unicorn Writers’ Conference for the third time.  I highly recommend this conference.   It will be held at Reid Castle, Manhattanville College, in Purchase, NY.  From their website: “Unicorn Writers’ Conference brings together industry insiders to offer rare tutorials on what publishers really care about, including how to market a book, generate publicity, select artwork, write a query letter, improve writing, and negotiate a book deal. Leading filmmakers and bloggers will give tutorials on how to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies and social media services. Countless networking opportunities will be available throughout the day.”


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To learn about Unicorn’s guest agents, editors, speakers, manuscript review sessions, and workshops, check out their brochure: http://www.unicornwritersconference.com/2015-brochure.html  or email at: unicornwritersconference@gmail.com.

quill

Coming up soon is the Annual Publishing Conference held by Adirondack Center for Writing.  This conference  will take place on June 6th  and 7th  at Heaven Hill Resort in Lake Placid, NY. It will include workshops, literary agents, editors and publicists, with one or two day attendance options.  To learn more, check out their website: http://www.adirondackcenterforwriting.org/events/97.

 

These are just two of a year-long calendar of writers’ conferences that offer a vast menu of topics such as mystery, memoir, biography, children’s, horror, playwriting,  journalism, and non-fiction.  Shaw Guides is an excellent resource for locating a conference of your choice.  Check them out at: http://writing.shawguides.com/

Additional sources for upcoming conferences are:

Writer’s Digest www.writersdigest.com and Poets & Writers http://www.pw.org/magazine.

 

 


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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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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.

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

 

 

 

 

 


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Lose Your Muse?

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

Did you ever lose your muse?  Get caught without a thought?august 30 039

Some folks contend that writer’s block is just a myth. They believe that it’s just an excuse for doing something else, like watching the Super Bowl.  Others consider writer’s block a form of laziness, and offer a reproachful “Get over it.”

I don’t think it’s a myth because two weeks ago I looked it in the eye when it raised its ugly head.  Believe me, I mean ugly.  I was completing the latest revision of my manuscript, working nonstop to meet a self-imposed deadline.  I was so close. It was going along beautifully and then the Earth caved in under my feet.  The laptop beckoned, my characters cried for help, and the deadline loomed. But the spirit was not willing and the flesh was indeed weak.  Maybe I had pushed too hard and didn’t take enough breaks, but approaching the manuscript incited all the dread of a root canal.  There really should be a 911 extension for writing emergencies.

Whatever my problem was–writer’s block, prose woes, wits on the fritz, motivation vacation–it passed in a couple of days.  The cure?  Probably taking my nose off the grindstone and giving it a rest.  During that time, my characters continued their chatter in my head, giving me new ideas and insights. I scribbled on the backs of receipts, napkins, unopened mail, anything paper-ish, whenever caught without my trusty notebook.  My unscheduled break proved to be restorative and productive, although I usually don’t suggest disrupting writing routines.

Myth or not, there’s a plethora of writer’s block websites, books, suggestions, cures, software, and yes, there’s an app for that.  There are online plot and story line idea generators to help “break the block,” complete with help for settings, characters, dramatic entrances, dialogue, endings, and even for killing characters.  A Googgle search will lead you to interactive writing games to get your creative juices flowing, and various interactive text generators to provide poems, character names, titles, and even Shakespearean sonnets.

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The Center for Writing Studies at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers a treasure trove of writing resources, including some valuable writer’s block strategies such as:

Taking notes: Jot down ideas and phrases as they occur to you. Free yourself from paragraphs and sentences for the moment… before you forget them.

Freewriting/Brainstorming

Piecework: Sometimes, starting at the beginning induces Perfect Draft Syndrome. It may be easier to get started if you approach the task sideways. If you’ve got a plan for the article or manual, choose a section from the middle or a point you know well and start there. Then do another section.

What I Really Mean Is (WIRMI): When you’re stuck in a quagmire trying to find the perfect phrase, switch to What I Really Mean Is and just say it the way you think it. Once you know what you mean, it is easier to refine the phrasing.

Satisficing (satisfy + suffice): You “satisfice” when you take the first reasonable solution instead of searching endlessly for just the right word or sentence. If you’re unhappy with the choice, you can bracket it and promise yourself you’ll fix it later.

Find the complete strategies for overcoming writer’s block and other writing tips at:  http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/tips/writersblock/

writers block

Carrie Visintainer of the Huffington Post offers “10 Simple Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block.”

“…try a writing exercise…take the pressure off…set realistic expectations…change location…stop when the going’s good…commit to Internet-free time…switch to another project… take a break…”

 You can read her article based on these and more suggestions at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carrie-visintainer/

 

 

If you’re looking for solutions to specific writer’s block symptoms,  check out the Perdue University Writing Lab’s  at: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/567/01/)

snoop wr blk

MAY THE MUSE BE WITH YOU