It’s been quite a month, this June of 2010! Such a whirl of gaiety, glamor, and interviewing amazing people in the publishing industry. Quite a lot of activity, actually, for someone who’s secretly just a rickety 97-year-old bootlegger who once shot the shoe off a revenuer (and would do it again if she could only find her jug).
And in that spirit, may I thank first and foremost, Roz Morris, aka @dirtywhitecandy, who very kindly and with nearly boundless optimism honored me last week with the Versatile Blogger Award.
I am touched and humbled.
I must now, according to the rules, tell you seven things about myself that you may or may not need to know:
1. I’m ambidextrous.
2. I spent two years of my childhood living in a breathtakingly beautiful ruined two-hundred-year-old hacienda in rural Ecuador without either plumbing or electricity, facing the grand and awe-inspiring slopes of Chimborazo, the tallest mountain on the equator (thus the furthest point anywhere from the center of the earth). That was in 1973.
3. I spent the next nine months in a Land Rover with my entire family traveling throughout South America and Europe. There were six of us, and because we brought the car we had to take a freighter from Buenos Aires to Italy. It was crowded.
4. The Land Rover was outfitted with an entire collapsable house, built out of plywood (without power tools) and painted sky blue by my rather overwhelming-ambitious father. The first night we camped it took us about three hours to set up. Nine months later we could do it in five minutes flat. We called the car Rover and all became intensely fond of him.
5. The freighter was named the Calaseta and was a very small, very classy refurbished English passenger ship from the 1930s with glass-fronted bookshelves in the “lounge” full of writers like P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and Dodie Smith (not her famous book). That was when I learned I wanted to be a writer. I was 12 years old.
6. I speak a mangled sort of Spanish at top speed and with great finesse. I like to think of it as Victorianish.
7. I won my first computer as a scholarship from a typewriter manufacturing company. The best part was the awards ceremony, to which I invited my best friend as my guest and at which we spent the whole time nudging each other and saying, “Get me,” and slapping handfuls of the glittery confetti stars sprinkled decoratively across the table to our chests.
That was in 1987. Apparently I had not matured much during those intervening 14 years.
So that’s seven things. And now I must, even more importantly. . .
pass the Versatile Blogger Award to 15 other bloggers
. . .whom I consider it an honor to read. I will do the best I can, but honestly I don’t have a lot of time to read blogs, so some of these people will simply be writers I think you should emulate.
So hike up your britches, folks, and get your clicking fingers ready.
First, the pros:
The Bloggess. She’s a gimme. You can’t NOT recommend her, although she’s got more followers than Jesus—excuse me—I mean, the Beatles. I laugh harder at her stuff than I do at anyone’s but my husband’s and son’s. And not just because she’s the guardian of James Garfield, either (although that certainly doesn’t hurt). I don’t even expect her to take the time to pass on the award, because with half a million viewers every month and their associated emails I happen to know she doesn’t have it. But you still need to check her out.
Words into Print. I owe Laverne Daley a huge debt of gratitude. About a year ago, before my editing business got—as they say—wheels, she & I traded guest posts, and she let me call her up and ask her a million questions about how she handles being a freelance writer. She said someone had once done the same for her, and she wanted to pass on the gift. And now I’m passing it back. Because Laverne knows all about being a professional writer, and she’s still out there passing the gift of her knowledge and long experience on to others.
The Urban Muse. I like Susan a lot, and not just because she once let me write a guest post. She’s also a professional freelance writer. She takes being a professional writer seriously. She doesn’t live on dreams of what the publishing industry owes her, she gets out there and earns what she’s worth. And then she turns around and shares what she learns with the rest of us. I like that in a gal.
Book Trends Blog. Bob Spear is blogging about the self-publishing process. He’s a long-time self-publisher—he was self-publishing when some of you were still in diapers—and he’s a vast resource of serious, researched information on the subject. Plus he interviewed me. And you’ve always gotta appreciate someone with the cojones to do THAT.
Alien Djinn Romances. Do you know what that is? Because I don’t, and I’m kind of scared to find out. Still, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, who contributes to that blog, has her own blog, and is also on Twitter, is another old hand in this fiction industry, and she writes loooooong, opinionated, heck of specific posts on everything from character development to the tax law (1979 Thor Power Tool Company vs. the IRS) that heralded the era of will o’ the wisp backlists. If you want to be a long-term publishing author, she knows stuff you ought to know. Plus she writes as long of posts as I do, and for this I am eternally grateful.
Mystery Man on Film. We lost him. What a tragic waste. The most brilliant blogger on the craft of fiction out there died only a few weeks ago, under what I like to believe were mysterious circumstances. Read his blogs anyway. What that man didn’t know about writing great stories probably isn’t out there.
Mira’s List. Mira suffered brain damage in a car accident, and instead of religion she got Gratitude. Now she’s doing her part to improve her little corner of the planet by providing artists—including writers—with information on grants, fellowships, and foundations that help them bring art into this world. Mira, I’m telling you, has my undying admiration.
So that’s the pros I follow. Next, my clients (those with blogs—almost all of those people stay out of the blogosphere, and with good reason):
Ania’s here. Ania’s a Pushcart Prize nominee, a literary writer and artist of the highest calibre, and although she doesn’t blog often it’s because she’s—guess what?—busy writing. She is one of the clients who has renewed my faith in this new generation of beautiful literature. She’s also treating her writing career as a profession rather than a get-rich-quick scheme, with the result that she’s recently acquired a terrific agent and is now represented by the most respected agency in Canada.
Actually, it turns out I think Ania’s the only one of my clients who blogs at all. Take a lesson, guys. So I’ll just add:
Chris Ryan. He doesn’t blog. He lives in Finland. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, or if it’s simply that he spends all his free time honing his craft. But he does publish in online journals. He’s another high-calibre literary writer, another of those who have renewed my faith in modern literature, with a published book of poetry, three (count ‘em, THREE) beautiful novels, and a ton of agent research under his belt before he even got serious about querying. Now some big names are interested in him—very interested. Are you all paying attention?
Michelle Davidson Argyle. Lady Glamis isn’t one of my clients, yet, but hopefully will be one day. She recently shut down her blog, The Innocent Flower, to concentrate more on her writing and family, but she’s also self-publishing a novella and blogging the process for the benefit of everyone considering such a move. Watch for it. She’s WAY more organized about it than I am.
Lucia Orth doesn’t blog, either, but she’s on Twitter. Author of the gorgeous, deep, and thought-provoking literary novel Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, she’s been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner, the PEN/Hemingway, and—wait for it—the Pulitzer Prize. Publishers Weekly gave her a starred review, and NPR raved. She’s a literary phenomenon. And with any luck at all she & I will get to have coffee, talk fiction, and catch up on each other’s lives in a few weeks in Portland, where neither of us lives.
So those are my favorite authors in the blogosphere. These next bloggers work their heinies off providing aspiring writers with lists of great posts on writing in the blogosphere every week. You heard that right, an on-going work of love (and it is work!) for all of you out there in the trenches:
It’s All About Writing. Nicole Humphrey Cook lists scores and scores of great links, and she even sorts them for you. She’s like your mom, only for writers. The woman’s insane. That’s probably what I like about her.
Adventures in Children’s Publishing. Martina & Marissa post writing prompts along the lines of, “All cockroaches step forward!” which, you know, has got to lead you somewhere. They also post a weekly roundup, and they also sort them for you. Also—obviously—insane.
In other words: you’ve got three whacked-out moms, guys. You have no more excuses.
(I would have also included Elizabeth S. Craig, but Roz got to her before I did. Thanks, Elizabeth!)
Here’s the one reviewer I know, and, yes, she IS going to review my book. Just as soon as someone does something to sort out the printing deadlock we’re in and finally gets that damn thing into print:
Alvah’s Books. Rebeca’s a professional PR rep who’s settled down to spend her life reading Spanish Civil War veteran Alvah Bessie and reviewing all kinds of books under the kind auspices of his terrific name. Two of the chapters in my book are adapted from guest posts I originally wrote for her site.
Now over here in the aspiring lunatics corner, we’ve got:
Constant Revision, aka @WritingAgain. Funny, irreverant, and sometimes totally off-the-wall, Simon’s never read Pride & Prejudice, but he knows how to protect his tenders.
And finally, a llapa just to extend the limits of your creativity:
Jeff’s Open Source Resource. He’s a geek. He’ll break your brain with his technical expertise in Linux and the open-source industry. He’s a comedian. He makes up most of my best jokes. He’s the Silicon Valley tech documentation industry’s Beagle board expert, the smartest new thing at Linux conferences around the country, AND he brings the beer. He’s cute as a bug’s ear. Father of the most adorable and hilarious Harpo enthusiast in history. And I love him. What a total babe.
Wow. I can’t believe I came up with 15 links. Plus my husband. I think I deserve some kind of reward, considering I went into this thinking I knew three.
But all I really want is to know what the hell kind of candy Roz has been eating.
Millicent Dillon is the world’s expert on Jane and Paul Bowles, one of America’s most extraordinary and puzzling literary couples—both cutting-edge literary geniuses, expatriates in Tangier before and after WWII, both gay and yet devoted to each other for 35 years, even throughout Jane’s terrible 16-year illness after her stroke at the young age of 40 until her tragic death.
Dillon’s biography, You Are Not I: A Portrait of Paul Bowles, explores the life and charismatic character of the man who is, arguably, single-handedly responsible for today’s mega-popular “edgy” dark literature. Among other work, Paul wrote his four frightening and beautiful novels, The Sheltering Sky, Let It Come Down, The Spider’s House, Up Above the World, and the shockingly realistic 1940s stories of violence, sex, and alien culture, “A Distant Episode,” “The Delicate Prey,” and “Pages from Cold Point,” (collected in A Distant Episode and The Delicate Prey: And Other Stories), which long before dark literature became popular or even acceptable in the mainstream “opened the world of Hip,” Norman Mailer said later, “and let in the murder, the drugs, the incest. . .the end of civilization.”
Even more fascinating is Dillon’s wonderful A Little Original Sin: The Life and Work of Jane Bowles, the only biography of Paul’s brilliant wife Jane, author of one Broadway play, In the Summer House, a handful of stories, a puppet play, and the 1943 novel Two Serious Ladies, all published in My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles, and of which Two Serious Ladies has just been reissued by Sort of Books in the UK. Jane, even more than Paul, was a writer of such unique talent and vision that even those literary experts who embrace experimentalists like James Joyce and William Faulkner have never known what to do with her.
For much of the past year, I’ve corresponded and talked with Dillon about her work on the Bowleses. Although Jane died in 1973 (rumored to be poisoned with love potions by her Moroccan lover, Cherifa), Dillon knew Paul well, up until his death only ten years ago.
Millicent, I must credit you with my entire bibliography on Paul and Jane. I knew nothing about them when I picked up A Little Original Sin fifteen years ago, and they have both been enormously influential to me ever since.
So let’s talk first about Jane’s life as a writer, because it was not easy. Jane published before Paul did, and it was his work with her on Two Serious Ladies that inspired him to try his hand at fiction. Yet she sank rather quickly into literary obscurity and put her energy into assuring Paul that she didn’t mind if he was the more successful or if people at her publisher [Knopf] pretended not to know whom she was. What do you think her real feelings were about being overshadowed in the world of literature by her (very talented) husband?
The relationship between Jane’s work and Paul’s work was as complex as the relationship between the two of them. In that relationship she looked to him for support (including economic support) as well as early on, as with Two Serious Ladies, with shaping the work in terms of form—so that he suggested taking out the third serious lady, and she readily agreed. In her early letters, when he does start publishing, stories at first, and then getting the novel contract, you can hear the anguish in her voice. She admits to jealousy and then tries to smooth it over, but it’s obviously there. In the same way she suffered from his relationship with [his long-term lover] Ahmed Yacoubi.
As for Paul, he continuously encouraged her to work, and even said once that he would not see her if she did not work. I would guess, though of course, it is only speculation, that it was not his publishing his own work that made her own work so hard for her, it was a whole host of problems that she had to deal with. The rivalry, the jealousy could have been overcome. But the forces within her that she was fighting were never appeased.
Incidentally, Jane’s play was produced several years after Paul had been publishing. He wrote the music for the play. She anguished over that play for years, tried one version, then the next, and could not ultimately make it cohere. There are wonderful things in it, but it too suffers from her anguish about her own decisions.
If Jane had been a man, do you think her fiction would be more widely-known today? Do you think she would have been classed with the more famous male experimental writers, whom she in many ways completely surpassed?
Jane, as you may know, has never been taken up by the feminists. In fact, I don’t think you can strictly speaking regard her as a feminist. If you remember, she thought in very conservative terms about marriage, her marriage to Paul. He was to provide for her, and she was to take care of the house, etcetera. She never seemed to have any objections to that. Here again I am speculating, but I don’t think feminist ideas as such play a large role in her work. She did not think in general terms, in any case.
You ask if a man who wrote as she did would be more famous? A man, of course, could not write as she did.
As for fame, Victoria, think of the many wonderful writers who have fallen into obscurity in this time of no-lasting impact.
How did she do it—how did Jane achieve such economy, insight, and sheer comedy, while simultaneously giving the impression she was an amateur simply playing around with words? Have you ever tried to imitate her work to see how it’s done?
Once Jane got into the writing of Two Serious Ladies, she never thought of herself as an amateur. In some strange way, she knew how good she was, compared herself favorably to Carson McCullers, for example. Yet even though she knew how good she was, the anguish was always there. I was not and am not into literary psychoanalysis, but she opens herself up in the work and in the letters so that you can see all these forces within her. And at the same time, her terrible anguish about any decision.
No, I have never tried to imitate Jane’s style. I am not into imitation. I’ve spent forty years trying to find my own style.
It seems to me the forces within her were based largely upon her relationship with her mother—with her role as Claire’s “million-dollar baby.” Jane’s work appears to be about exploring that relationship from myriad angles: from that of the daughter who retreats in submission and longing; the daughter who rebels and runs wild; the mother with an iron will; and the mother blind to her own extreme dependence. In much of her work these relationships appear as intimate relationships between peers—even sisters—yet the grappling with the power imbalance is always there.
Yes, it does seem clear that was a very powerful force for her in the way you describe it. Yet I also feel that the struggle in her, as in any human being, is more complex than any single issue. This is where literature begins to depart from psychoanalysis, which is after all a therapy intended to bring the patient into a greater adaptation to the world.
I cannot speak of this in very simple straightforward terms because of the complexity of human emotions. That is what I see so strongly in Jane. It is as though multiple forces assail her, and she is continuously buffeted by them from all sides. What makes her different from others, in a certain sense, is that she has no defense against the multiplicity. If she could have said, “My mother did this to me or that to me,” it would have been simpler for her. But instead, I suspect, she would think of herself as assailed one way and then by another.
Jane’s work is replete with insight into paradox. Whenever she finds a fundamental truth, she immediately progresses beyond it to its antithesis. I think the basis of this must have been in the overwhelming duality of her feelings about her mother—the pampering that gave Jane, ultimately, her faith in her abilities, along with the blatant use of Jane for Claire’s emotional well-being.
My immediate response, with respect to Claire, is to recall the strangeness of Claire taking Jane to Switzerland for treatment in the sanatorium [when 13-year-old Jane contracted tuberculosis of the knee shortly after her father died] and then going off and leaving her there while she went to Paris. In Paris, Claire was pursuing her own version of finding a new life, romantic and otherwise. I could bet she didn’t see anything wrong with this, though it is difficult for me to reconcile that choice with Claire’s constant expression of devotion for Jane. No doubt there was something in Claire that could deceive herself easily.
I do think about Jane that her relation to her family of women and its authoritarianism makes her a figure that is in some way incomprehensible to young women now. I remember giving a talk about the book to a group of women, many of whom were irate because she did not break away, they thought, from the constraints upon her, and, in fact, blamed her.
What did they think she was doing in Morocco in the 1940s, making excuses to Moroccan women [as she described in "Everything is Nice"] when they asked, “Why do you not sit in your mother’s house?” I remember Paul saying that they got married partly so Jane could travel, as she could not have traveled alone in that era. She went to enormous lengths to escape, to the extent that she eventually died of her extremist life in Tangier, suffering terrible pyschiatric handicaps due to that stroke and ensuing difficulties, many years before her time.
When I would talk to Paul about Jane in her later years when she was so ill, I would say, with a certain hubris, “But she was still Jane, wasn’t she?” Paul would deny it. Now, so many years later, after going through experiences with friends who suffered from conditions similar to Jane’s, if not exactly the same, and after being torn by grief, anger, etcetera, etcetera, I think I was both wrong and right.
I would like to think some more about Jane’s physical vulnerability, about her relationship to her own body, or at least try to speculate about it. Jane at times seemed almost oblivious to her body. When she called herself “Crippie Kike Dyke,” did she think it was funny? Or was she being more bitter than funny? Think about what it would be for a teenage girl to be in bed in traction for months upon months.
I think she was both fearless and very fearful at the same time, and this would result in her paying no attention to her body at times and at other times being obsessive about it, worrying about it and how it could be damaged.
Why was writing so terribly hard for her? She was pushed to do it and yet pushed not to do it. She is always, I think, subject to opposing forces and cannot choose what side she is on. Decisions of any kind are a torment to her. So in some way, I suspect, despite her anger at her mother, there also existed in her tenderness, if not love, rage, despair, maybe even sympathy.
I suppose what I’m saying is that the multiplicity is there for all of us, but she could not placate it, keep it quiet.
There is also this about Claire. She seems to have been of ordinary—even limited—sensibility, someone interested in clothes, propriety, middle-class values from her family, a family that she never escaped from, maybe never even knew the impulse to escape from them. One of the ways I see it is that Claire was not an equal antagonist, and as a result Jane had to build her up more and more in her mind to create a true antagonist. This she did with her imagination, and by so doing, was more of a prisoner of that imagined Claire than the real one. But how could Jane fight her own imagination? It is in this realm—the realm of her own imagination—that Jane had to fight out her most serious battles. And no one could help her with that.
And yet, despite all that was so dark in her life, it is important to turn again to her work. Reading it, one sees how remarkable and how innovative it is even after all this time, how funny and surprising it is and profound. Perhaps that’s the most surprising thing of all, how profound it is.
Millicent Dillon is the winner of five O. Henry Awards, as well as being a PEN/Faulkner nominee for her fictional biography, Harry Gold, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, and a residency at Yaddo artists working community, the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy, and the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California. She is the author of three other novels, The One in the Back is Medea, The Dance of the Mothers, and A Version of Love: A Novel, a collection, Baby Perpetua and Other Stories, and three biographies, A Little Original Sin: The Life and Work of Jane Bowles, You Are Not I: A Portrait of Paul Bowles, and After Egypt: Isadora Duncan and Mary Cassatt, a Dual Biography, all of which are available through Amazon’s Millicent Dillon Page. She is also the editor of two collections, Out in the World: Selected Letters of Jane Bowles, 1935-1970 and The Viking Portable Paul and Jane Bowles. Her own papers are archived in the Harry Ransome Humanities Research Center at the University of Austin, Texas. She lives and writes in Northern California.
Short answer: you don’t know what you mean by “make it.”
- Do you mean get an agent?
You can get an agent. This country is CHOCK FULL TO BURSTING right this moment with brand new, chomping-at-the-bit, frothing-at-the-mouth, starving agents. People who should not have been allowed to learn to type in the first place are going to get agents.
Good news for everyone out there who’s decided becoming an author is easier than learning a useful trade and earning an honest living! Not, you know, that that attitude’s going to earn you any kind of living at all, but, yes, it can sometimes get you represented.
- Do you mean get a publisher?
You can get a publisher. Of course, what you actually get is a publisher’s acquisitions editor, which is slightly different, considering most editors when they’re hired these days receive not so much a desk chair as a revolving door disguised as a chair, designed to whirl them around and fling them out a nearby open window at their boss’ whim.
I just read Susan Orlean’s great post on how she went through some eight editors and four publishers with only her first book.
This is going to be news to the unpublished among you: not all books that get acquired get published, and the de-publication of a book often has absolutely nothing to do with the book itself. I’ve got horror stories. If you’re published, you’ve probably got horror stories. Everyone’s got horror stories.
(But maybe you LIKE horror stories!)
- Do you mean get a publisher who will actually publish your book?
Like agents, micro-publishers are popping up everywhere, mushrooms straight out of the rich, fruity loam of certain rotting underpinnings of the publishing industry. And even before the recent burst in micro-publishing, there were all sorts of small indie publishers desperate for some general words on a page and a writer willing to sign away all rights to them.
You can get someone to publish your book. You might not even have to pay them. Much.
- Do you mean get a publisher who will pay you for your book?
Surprisingly enough, some very nice advances sometimes go out to the authors of some really crappy shlock. Even newbie authors of really crappy shlock. Even inexperienced newbie authors of really crappy shlock.
You know what happens after that? The shlock doesn’t earn the very nice advance back. Then there’s a big cat-fight down at the publisher’s office, with everyone pointing fingers and calling names, voices get shrill, feet stomp, and eventually someone slaps someone else in the face with a kid glove, and the next thing you know they’re yanking off their jackets and choosing their seconds. And the author?
Yeah, no matter who wins the duel, nobody ever speaks to THAT loser again.
(More tragically, since the decline of the literary novel this actually happens with some very beautiful, very classy literature indeed. And that’s something I don’t even want to talk about.)
- Do you mean get a publisher smart enough to only pay what the book earns back?
Geez, you’re taking all the fun out of advances!
- Do you mean get a publisher who can purvey your fledgling efforts into an on-going profitable venture?
That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? Book after book after book, pretty little checks coming in the mail from your agent every quarter, a cozy little savings account all for them, signing your name with an authorial flourish while the other banktellers lean toward your lucky teller’s cage and watch with tiny gasps of awe.
And it will be a savings account, just so you know. You’ll still have to work a real job to pay your bills.
- Do you mean earn a living by writing?
That’d be even nicer, all those authorial flourishes AND you get to spend all day every day in your office under the eaves, polishing your keyboard and mapping out your next baby and pausing, when inspiration fails you, to trim your toenails and think about asking your agent to renegotiate your contract.
You understand, of course, you won’t be living in New York City, where real estate is a tad pricey. Or, in all likelihood, New York State. Or even the Eastern seaboard. Or the Western seaboard. Or the United States. Or probably the industrialized world. And that includes Thailand.
But hey, it would still be a great way to live, wouldn’t it? And I hear the tsi-tsi flies don’t carry nearly as many life-threatening diseases in the African bush as they used to.
- Do you mean make a fortune writing?
. . .so you can live wherever you like, write about whatever you like, walk through the world flanked on all sides by groupies and flunkies rolling a red carpet under your feet just before you step, fanning you with ostrich feathers and peeling your grapes and hanging on the pearls of wisdom that drop regular as clockwork from your ruby-red lips?
I’M SO SORRY.
My job’s already taken.
You ask if a man who wrote as Jane did would be more famous? A man, of course, could not write as she did.—Millicent Dillon
Over the course of her illustrious forty-year writing career, Millicent Dillon has won five O. Henry awards and been nominated for a PEN/Faulkner. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, and invitations to such prestigious writing residences as Yaddo.
Dillon is also the world’s expert on the Bowleses, one of America’s most extraordinary and puzzling literary couples. Her book, You Are Not I, is the definitive biography of Paul Bowles, author of copious fiction and nonfiction, including The Sheltering Sky, which Bertolucci made in 1990 into a movie with John Malkovic and Debra Winger, and the shockingly realistic 1940s stories of violence, sex, and alien culture, “A Distant Episode,” “The Delicate Prey,” and “Pages from Cold Point,” which, said Norman Mailer much later, long before their time “opened the world of Hip.”
Dillon is also the author of A Little Original Sin, the only biography of Paul’s wife, the brilliant Jane Bowles—author of one Broadway play, a handful of stories, a puppet play, and the 1943 novel Two Serious Ladies, which has just been reissued by Sort of Books in the UK. Jane, even more than Paul, was a writer of such unique talent and vision that even those literary experts who embrace experimentalists like James Joyce and William Faulkner have never known what to do with her.
I’ve been fascinated by the Bowleses ever since I found A Little Original Sin and My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles in a San Francisco bookstore in 1995. Who were these people? What is the truth behind their enigma? And what must it have been like to travel to Morocco shortly after Jane’s tragic death in the early 1970s, an accomplished fiction author yourself, to meet and become friends with the mysterious Paul, to whom so many aspiring writers of that era—including the Beats—flocked like pilgrims?
Join me on Monday for:
The Forces Within: the Millicent Dillon interview
Let’s talk about querying. Because I found a great piece on querying the other day while investigating an agency with which one of my clients is in talks, Folio Literary Management.
You’ve all read this advice before (although Mr. Kleinman’s is particularly well-written). So why is it that when you send out your own meticulously-researched and -crafted queries, you always wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night immediately afterward, realizing you’ve committed one of these unpardonable sins?
Why does the universe hate you so?
- You addressed your query to the wrong agent.
Spelled it correctly. Wrote it in your best cursive on the envelope (you should probably get an award for that calligraphy). Made sure they represent your genre. Then stuck the wrong letter in the wrong envelope and—voila!—mailed that sucker off.
And you can’t dash down and try to get it back out of the mailbox, because you have a friend who did that once and found out (guess what?) it’s illegal. At least that’s what the cop said.
Hi. I’m not Agent X. I’m Agent Y, X’s worst enemy.
Just so you know, X hates you. In fact, X is spreading the word in the agent community that you have a communicable disease that travels with your queries. This means agents don’t just reject your queries. They don’t even just throw them away. They carry them into the backyard at the end of long tongs and torch them in an exorcism ceremony.
I apologize on behalf of X and wish you well in your endeavors. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!
- You misspelled significant words.
Including the agent’s name, the name of the author to which you would like to be compared, and “representation.”
Dear Writer: I’m afraid I don’t “repersant” anyone. But I bet you could get a job at Home Despot. All best.
- You spent so many hours writing and rewriting the central paragraph about your novel it now reads like some kind of disjointed dystopian fantasy about gnomes and Humphrey Bogart.
Even YOU would fling this one off you like a bug.
Dear Whoever-the-Heck-You-Are: Good luck and all that, but you might want to come out of your cave and have a conversation with a real human being at least once before you try to launch yourself into the field of simultaneous communication with thousands of strangers. Regards.
- You forgot the SASE.
It’s okay. I wasn’t going to respond to you, anyway.
- You claimed to have been published, not in the New York Times “Letters to the Editor Department,” but in The New Yorker.
Honest-to-god, it looked like the New York Times “Letters to the Editor Department” every single time you proofed it.
Dear Anonymous in Albuquerque: Yeah. The New Yorker’s never heard of you. I guess their records are pretty slip-shod. Ciao, baby.
- You forgot to mention either the title or wordcount of your novel.
How did this get by you? Were you ASLEEP?
Dear Yoo-hoo: It’s a fascinating idea, and it sounds like you’re capable of writing really amazing, mesmerizing prose. If you ever get around to writing that thing, you know, you should probably query someone with it.
- You misspelled your own name.
Fortunately—this one’s salvageable. Just hie yourself on down to the courthouse and legally change it. No one will ever know.
(Also check out this excellent piece on writing a synopsis from James Scott Bell.)
You know what’s hard? Sitting at your desk day in and day out, month after month, year after year, trying to come up with fresh and significant angles on life in an imaginary world. After awhile it seems like every character you create spends all their time flipping through random papers, looking under books, and trolling the blogosphere. (Garrison Keillor once said the characters in his first novel spent all their time smoking cigarettes and looking out windows.)
Get up! Go out in the world. Your characters are living there. Go look for them.
- On a high ladder.
This is how your characters feel when they have to do something they don’t want to do.
How do YOU feel? What’s under your hands? Under your feet? In your stomach? Between your ears? Ask yourself what it would feel like if you let go. Then ask yourself what it would feel like if you let go and your foot got caught.
That’s what happens to your characters after they’ve done what they didn’t want to do.
- In an advanced physics class.
This is how your characters feel when they’re in a conversation they can’t control.
What are you thinking? What is the person next to you thinking? What is the teacher thinking about you? Ask yourself how you’d teach this class if you were a genius. Then ask yourself what you’d do if the teacher told you to take over with the brain you’ve got.
That’s what happens to your characters when they have to speak.
- In a cold bath.
This is how your characters feel when they’re waiting.
What’s your body doing? What’s your skin doing? What’s your brain doing? Ask yourself what would happen if you never got out. Then ask yourself what would happen if your mortal enemy got in with you.
That’s what happens to your characters when they stop waiting.
- In a room full of boxes.
This is how your characters feel when they’re facing strangers.
What are your lungs doing? What is your scalp doing? What’s the first thing that flashes through your mind? Ask yourself what’s in these boxes that you’ve forgotten about. Then ask yourself what you’re going to do when you’ve got them all opened and the contents everywhere and you don’t know how to put it all back away.
That’s what happens to your characters at the end of the scene with the strangers.
- Under the sink working on plumbing.
This is how your characters feel when they’re trying to break through a stonewall.
How do your muscles feel? How does your spine feel? How do the synapses that are supposed to get you out of this pickle feel? Ask yourself what it would take to get someone else to do this. Then ask yourself what you’re going to say to the person with the gun when you crawl out and explain why you quit.
That’s what happens to your characters when they break through the stonewall.
- On a bridge over a moving ship.
This is how your characters feel when they have a chance to get something they desperately need.
What do your legs want to do? What do your arms want to do? What does your neck want to do? Ask yourself how it would feel to throw yourself off the bridge onto the ship. Then ask yourself how it would feel to miss.
That’s what happens to your characters when they go for the chance.
- In an airplane bathroom.
This is how your characters feel when they’re spying on someone.
How cramped are you? How twisted can you get? How does the privacy feel compared to being out there with everyone else? Ask yourself what it would be like to go down the drain and fall through the sky. Then ask yourself what it would be like to get stuck.
That’s what happens to your characters when footsteps head their way.
- In the open trunk of a car.
This is how your characters feel when they’re about to die.
How do your eyeballs feel? How do your palms feel? When was the last time you used the bathroom? Ask yourself how it would feel if someone slammed the trunk lid closed. Then ask yourself what it would be like to wake up still in the closed trunk.
That’s what happens to your characters at the moment of death.
- If you’ve got a love story, bring in a third party.
- If you’ve got a thriller, break their tools.
- If you’ve got sci fi, create unexpected social norms.
- If you’ve got a fantasy, make reality too hard to cope with.
- If you’ve got historical fiction, unearth facts no one from this era would know.
- If you’ve got a mystery, kill off your informants.
- If you’ve got horror, use prosaic details.
- If you’ve got an adventure, put your protagonist’s life in danger. And everyone else’s.
- If you’ve got comedy, add a touch of poignancy.
- If you’ve got YA, give your protagonist a dry sense of humor.
- If you’ve got MG, add random non sequiturs to the dialog.
- If you’ve got a picture book, make sure your illustrator is the very best.
- If you’ve got literary fiction, make sure your editor is the very best.
I think people laugh because it’s bizarre and they feel better about themselves in comparison, but a small part of them is nodding in recognition because they too once wondered why Jesus wasn’t considered a zombie.—the Bloggess
You’ve been hearing it from me for months now: the Bloggess found this great link, the Bloggess found that great clip, the Bloggess, the Bloggess, the Bloggess. She’s hilarious! She’s also one of the most popular bloggers out there, with half-a-million views a month, a Twitter following of 50,000 (except William Shatner), and ratings from Technorati to Alexa that have, frankly, stymied both of us.
And, just in case you haven’t yet taken my word for it, I’ve gone to her site and brought her back with me. So for all you Bloggess fans out there, your week is just about to get SO MUCH BETTER. And for all of you who don’t know yet who she is (make that: both of you). . .
You. Have. No. Idea.
Join us Monday for the next June Interview, this time with the dark, twisted, & golden-hearted Jenny Lawson:
Let’s Pretend WHAT Never Happened? the Bloggess interview
Donald Maass is the head of Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, selling more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas. He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004) and The Fire in Fiction (2009)—as well as numerous novels—and a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.
Lisa Rector is an independent editor (IE) specializing in late-stage story issues, sagging middles and third draft woes. She offers one-on-one intensive story development workshops, manuscript evaluations and revision assistance to professional authors of thrillers, suspense, mystery, historical, fantasy, mainstream and literary fiction. Lisa works with dozens of authors in the US, Canada, Australia and The Netherlands, teaches advanced editing and fiction writing techniques at conferences world-wide, and is the founder of the Lisa Rector Scholarship for Young Writers.
And they just happen to be married to each other.
Thank you so much, Don and Lisa, for taking time out of your busy lives for this interview! I know you’re an extremely literary household, between running a literary agency and an independent editing business. So the first thing I’d like to talk about is working together. Do you think of yourselves as two different businesses or as a single shop?
DM: We’re careful to keep our businesses separate and not steer writers exclusively to each other. We’re ethically obligated not to do that. Obviously, I recommend Lisa. She’s an outstanding editor. But I recommend others too and encourage writers to make a choice.
LR: Occasionally we do have clients in common. I may refer an author to Don, or vice versa, but only if it’s the right fit. Don’s a fabulous agent. But I refer clients to other agents as well.
Do you discover authors together?
LR: We meet writers online, through our websites, at conferences and workshops that we teach, and by referral of other authors, agents and editors. I recommend other reputable independent editors if I think they’re well-suited to a particular project.
DM: We obviously take an interest in each other’s clients, if only to cheer them on.
How do you deal with the distinction between literary representation, which authors are warned should never come with a requirement of up-front payment, and editing, which does?
LR: Editing is part of the deeper learning that exists beyond conferences, critique groups and MFA programs. A good editor can help a writer see the work that’s left to do when they don’t know what to do anymore. You pay for college, so why not for help developing your writing?
DM: I agree with that. Writers pay for conferences, courses and MFA degrees. Why not for developmental editing too? It’s accelerated learning. On the other hand, literary representation works best when the agent’s income derives from actual sales. The goal there is publication and career management. The agent’s incentive is commissions.
Lisa, do you edit Don’s books? Or are you too deeply involved in the writing of them to be able to get the necessary distance? Conversely, do you ever ask him for advice on your clients’ work?
LR: After eighteen books, Don knows how to reach writers in a unique way. And he has a wonderful team at Writer’s Digest. I did proofread The Fire in Fiction, but it was the kind of thing a wife does whose day job is being an editor. I think it annoyed him every time I pointed out a mistake [laughs].
[Laughing] Don, you write the books. Lisa, you edit the manuscripts. Do you lock horns over issues of craft?
DM: We understand craft in much the same way. In the end we both want great novels.
LR: My focus is on late stage story diagnosis and repair. I’m writing a book on the subject, tentatively titled The Third Draft.
Oh, nice! Like Graham Greene’s The Third Man. Very subtle. Now, “tension on every page” is the one piece of writing advice no author should ever be without. (I’ve mentioned you, Don, in reference to it in two guest posts: “Everything You Need to Know About Writing a Novel, in 1,000 Words” on Nathan Bransford’s site and “Countdown” for 16-year-old Emilee for NaNoWriMo, and I mention you as well in The Art & Craft of Fiction.) However, I’ve gotten push-back from aspiring authors on the idea that that’s too much tension. Can you talk about this?
LR: Most manuscripts downplay tension. This is true of both literary novels and commercial fiction. You may think you have enough tension, but ask yourself: Is your manuscript being rejected? Are your sales declining? When an author backs away from tension it is usually rooted in something beyond story construction. It stirs up disappointment, hurt, or other unresolved feelings in characters—and in their authors.
DM: What virtually all manuscripts need is not less tension but more. Now, the word “tension” might to some imply action or over-the-top emotional churning. But tension can be many things including simmering tension or even subtle unease. There’s never enough in manuscripts. That means yours. Sorry. I’m skimming. And if I’m skimming you can bet on it: so will editors. And readers. I have a whole chapter on how micro-tension works in The Fire in Fiction, if you’d like to know more.
Definitely. Don, you mention “telling-not-showing” in an interview with Andrea Campbell. Can you elaborate?
DM: This is a dangerous topic. It is usually best to show, not tell. On the other hand, there are moments in a novel when you might want to capture something invisible, like the mood in a room or a unique moment in time. There’s a way to do that called “measuring change,” which I discuss in my books and teach in my workshops.
LR: Um, what Don’s talking about here is not for beginners. Don’t try that at home! Call us first.
[Laughing] Yes. You’re talking sophisticated technique. Don, multiple layers are essential for a long work like a novel. Is there a basic technique you recommend that works in most cases? Do you have favorite techniques that are too tricky for the standard story?
DM: The first concept to grasp is plot “layers.” Those are the multiple—and later, interwoven—problems facing a protagonist. They can be planned separately; ditto subplots involving other characters. For multiple point-of-view novels, each character’s storyline can be thought of as a separate novella. Separating storylines makes them easier to manage. It also demands that each by itself is strong. It’s important to weave storylines together, but first they must stand on their own.
Lisa, what is your method for working with a client? What’s your first step, and how do you follow up? What do you consider the most important elements in a manuscript, and how do you go about achieving that with a client?
LR: The first step is to identify what works in the manuscript, what doesn’t and why. Because I work in late-stage story development, those issues can be difficult to pinpoint. At this stage, many writers are close to publication, yet not quite there. Agents and editors don’t have time to explain what’s lacking, so they send cryptic rejection letters.
Through story analysis, workshops and follow-up consults, we work to repair sagging middles, enhance line-by-line tension and address other third draft issues. There is, justifiably, great emphasis on what goes wrong in a manuscript, but most authors also tend to do too little of what they do well. Essential to any good novel are passionate storytelling, purpose, clarity, tension and characters that matter.
That’s a beautiful, insightful list. There are agents, though, who don’t like the idea of authors having their manuscripts professionally edited before submitting them. Some say it makes them nervous, and most say, “Don’t mention it in your query.” What is your opinion on this issue, from both sides of the fence?
DM: Most of the time “professional editing” means line editing by marginally qualified so-called editors. Most manuscripts don’t need that. Most need story development, the kind of work that Lisa does. Count on it: When a query says the manuscript has been “professionally edited” it is not ready. But when someone is referred to me by Lisa, Jerry Gross, Pat LoBrutto, John Paine or Lorin Oberweger, trust me, I pay attention.
LR: More and more I see referrals coming from agents. They’re not looking for line-by-line polish, they’re after great storytelling. And they know that a reputable IE can help get it there.
How can authors distinguish really good, professional editors from the many, many amateurs advertising themselves as “professional editors” without any background or training?
LR: Good editors take time to clarify author goals, identify what is working and what isn’t and provide support to authors in moving forward. Reputable editors do not charge reading fees, nor do they pay or receive money for referrals from other editors, authors, agents or publishers. For more information on this topic, visit my website.
How do you see the laying-off of so many in-house editors in the past couple of years affecting the work you both do, and how these new independents with publishing contacts and skills will play out in the workforce—both as literary agents and as independent editors—in the next few years?
LR: When in-house editors go independent it brings credibility to my profession. But authors need to discern which particular editor best suits their needs.
DM: There are a lot more agents today! That’s good for authors but also, in a way, bad for authors. I see manuscripts taken on, and sometimes sold, that I read too and felt were not ready. What’s wrong with that? Those authors are getting quick gratification but not necessarily a strong foundation of craft under their careers.
The fewer publishers’ in-house editors are left, the more it really puts the burden of polishing the manuscript on the writer. Which is, honestly, either a nearly impossible task or expensive—even if the author knows they need an editor—because, unlike agents, editors get paid up-front. How do you see the role of independent editors evolving as the industry continues to change? What’s your attitude toward writers who take the craft seriously but don’t have the money to pay a reputable editor?
LR: Developmental editing is an investment. It may take time. It may require extra work on a manuscript you felt was ready. Ultimately, a good measure of that investment is what shows up on the page. Conventional editing is expensive and, for the most part, ineffective. Rather than blue penciling a manuscript, I try to equip authors with the tools of craft that can be applied many times over in their careers.
Lisa, do you consider yourself expensive? Cheap? What is your philosophy behind how you price yourself?
LR: Am I the cheapest editor out there? No. Nor am I the most expensive. I work within each writer’s budget to provide the best editorial input I can.
DM: Independent editors like Lisa definitely are part of the publishing landscape now. Is it an extra burden of expense for writers? You can look at it that way, or you can see it as a level of professional help that was never before available.
That’s an excellent point, Don. Have you played with or implemented the idea of the editor taking a percentage of the writer’s royalties, rather than payment up-front, the way an agent does? Do you see any potential in that, or would the semantics simply make it too difficult?
LR: I don’t think taking a percentage would be beneficial for writers. It’s not just the extra cut it would entail, it’s that the editor’s incentive would then be to get done quickly and see a manuscript sold as soon as possible. As I said, I’m not about quick fixes. Authors need the tools of the craft so they can not just sell one book but build a career.
You take a long view of a writer’s career, rather than aim for a one-hit wonder. Don, you talk in The Career Novelist about big conglomerates buying up publishing houses in the 1980s. What effect do you think, in retrospect, the conglomerate business model has had on the quality and types of books published since then?
DM: One effect has been the withering of the mid-list. Genre lists also used to be a safe place to grow one’s craft. Not anymore. Nowadays authors get a very small window, two to four titles, to prove themselves and find an audience. It’s an extremely difficult situation. That’s why learning to write at breakout level from the get-go is important. That’s also why developmental editors like Lisa are important.
Ebooks—Kindle, Reader, Nook, and now the iPad—what is their impact on publishing and readership?
DM: E-books are still only four percent or so of overall sales. E-publishing isn’t changing the industry very much. Remember, you still need the physical book and everything that goes with it (cover, copy, reviews) for the e-book to be successful. Who sells the most e-books? Authors who are already best sellers in paper. Guess what? You still have to write a great novel. As for the future, I can see e-books becoming an established niche in book retailing, perhaps as big as audio books (which are roughly 10% of the book market). But I don’t think the paper book is going away anytime soon.
What is the impact of Publishing On Demand (POD) on publishing, particularly returns? Are publishers moving in this direction?
DM: POD is great for tiny print runs, but what author wants micro-sales? POD is good for authors with backlist titles that can’t be made available any other way. But keep it in perspective. It’s not a way to build an audience.
LR: I agree, POD doesn’t build readership.
But POD is the heart of self-publishing—which leads us to the fact that there’s some truly awful stuff being self-published, and yet we continue to hear about publishers who find excellent work through self-publishing. What role does self-publishing play right now in the whole system from writing through agent to publisher?
DM: Self-publishing success stories are one in 10,000. Every year there’s one breakthrough. Eragon. The Shack. Is self-publishing a career development strategy for aspiring authors? If you like 1-in-10,000 odds then sure. But for virtually everyone, I’d say no.
LR: What pushes authors into self-publishing? Is it the realistic expectation of using it as a stepping stone? I don’t think so. Most self-publish because they’re frustrated, can’t wait, feel it’s their turn (yet they’re not getting “the call”), or because they imagine that self-publishing is the only way to put a particular project behind them.
Writers hear all the time now: “Don’t try to get published if you aren’t also prepared to become your own marketer.” And yet, like self-editing and professional editors, self-marketing is no substitute for professional marketing. And what about “social networking” and the power of grassroots exposure on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etcetera?
DM: Promotion and “platform” are much bigger considerations for nonfiction authors. Novelists starting out need to put their focus on great stories. All the blogging in the world won’t build an audience if your fiction is weak. The best promotion in the world is a strong second novel, followed by an even better third novel. But, hey, let’s assume your fiction is superb. You never write a weak novel. (That’s you, right?) Okay, how much effort to put into online promotion? Remember that promotion is cumulative. The effect of any promotion on sales of an individual title is going to be small. If you are a self-promoter you’ve got to commit to it for the long haul.
LR: The emphasis on self-promotion is often misplaced. There are writers who’ve built their website and planned their promo campaign before they’ve even finished their first draft.
I see it all over out there, Lisa. Exactly what you’re saying. And now we’re talking sales numbers—Bookscan has created a situation in which writers no longer have time to build a readership. It’s sink or swim right out of the gate. What is your take on how this helps or hinders the industry?
DM: Bookscan’s a useful tool for publishers, no question. The downside is that it fosters instant success thinking. Fiction audiences don’t always grow like that. Also, some genre fiction sells disproportionately in independent bookstores and outlets that don’t report to Bookscan. I’m happy to say, though, that most publishers get that. I’ve learned to live with Bookscan.
Don, you offer The Career Novelist as a free downloadable book online. And at the same time there is a very real sense among professionals of, “If you undervalue yourself, everyone else will undervalue you, too.” While, simultaneously, many new writers worry that the blogosphere culture of, “Everything should be free,” means their chances of ever earning anything with their work is shrinking away to nothing. How do you balance these conflicting issues?
DM: It’s a strange thing, but giveaways can help sales of physical books. We can at least say with some confidence that they don’t hurt. Look at it this way: You’re happy if your publisher stuffs goodie bags at conferences with your book, so why not do the same thing online?
What about the blog effect—there have always been amateur writers hoping to break into publishing big-time due to the perceived glamor of being A Writer, but now that everyone writes a blog it seems there’s an almost insurmountable bottleneck. People who have never considered writing before are announcing in public that they started writing a book two months ago and, as Lisa said, are already looking for representation and studying up on marketing. How does this affect the industry overall?
LR: Blogging is great. I’ve done it myself. But marketing and craft are two different things. Think about it: does writing a blog teach you how to write a novel?
DM: I’ve never taken on a novelist just because they’ve got a killer blog. What’s the point? It’s not going to sell books, or many. Blogs are a nice place to connect and discuss craft. Blog away. But don’t expect that by itself it will make you a successful novelist. It really won’t help that much.
Traditionally, Don, one reason agents are so important is that they have the leverage to negotiate higher rates for the writer. What about the hailed decline of big advances and advent of backloaded offers? What about advances that don’t earn out and how that figures in the bottom line? What are you advising writers these days on what they can expect?
DM: Publishers are grabbing more than ever in terms of territory and sub-rights. You still need an agent in your corner. Your agent is also your intermediary, problem solver, career advisor, sub-rights broker, payment facilitator and much more. In terms of what authors can expect, yes, our advance expectations right now are lower. Blame the recession, but that can also be good. Advances that fail to earn out can kill careers. More realistic advances can give an author time and room to grow. It’s not all bad.
Lisa, what do you tell your clients (besides referring them to Don, of course) about seeking a career as a writer?
LR: Writing, like anything, is hard work. Successful authors know that dedication and desire to evolve are required every day. They commit to improving their craft and taking risks. They don’t get comfortable wrapping themselves in the familiar. They understand that it is their most recent book sales that dictate success.
Independent editor Lisa Rector can be reached through her website, Third Draft in New York City.
Literary agent Donald Maass can be reached through his website, Donald Maass Literary Agency.
- What it’s like to be transported to a parallel universe of incandescent vision through your own small words.
- How it feels to unravel the mystery of all human endeavor into a web of light that pulses delicately in your hands.
- Everything about your main characters’ childhoods, which were so poignant and heart-rending and touching but don’t fit into the story you have to tell today.
- What’s in the shadows of your protagonist’s heart that makes them gesture so gracefully, lie so effectively, turn their head with such sudden tenderness.
- Where your villain has been to make them burn so deeply, grasp so strongly, care so powerfully about destroying everything that’s ever been against them.
- What really happens when the secondary characters go in the other room while the protagonist is watching out the window for the villain.
- What hilarious jokes those secondary characters are telling in the background during the pivotal bar scene.
- All the subtle, complex minor subplots going on between the secondary characters that would only distract your reader from following with bated breath your protagonist’s driving agenda.
- What every single detail of every single room in every apartment or house looks like, down to the patterns on the upholstery and the type of wood the coffee table is make out of.
- Your protagonist’s favorite books and movies.
- Your villain’s favorite books and movies.
- What great clothes your protagonist is wearing in every scene. AND where they got them.
- What your villain knows about hatred and malice that you wish you didn’t know and will never actually admit to.
- Exactly how—although it would disrupt your reader’s epiphany for you to spell it out in so many words—your protagonist and villain understand each other in the final moment, when they face each other across the abyss of their irreconcilable differences.
- What lies beyond the hill in that panoramic view in front of which your characters enact their mesmerizing climactic scene.
- How their dark figures against that view epitomize everything you know and feel and believe about the vividness of living.
- What your protagonist means when they say, “I’ll just let you wonder.”
- What your villain means when they say, “I don’t have to.”
- Where your characters go when they walk off the last page.
- Exactly how your protagonist felt before it all fell apart, when they were lying in the arms of your own imaginary beloved.
- Where your villain hid the steak knives.
MILLLICENT G. DILLON, the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles, has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb.
BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by PanMacmillan.
LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth.
SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway.
STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited his second novel, Memory of Water and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water.
ANIA VESENNY is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights.
TERISA GREEN is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with her to develop a new speculative fiction series.
CHRIS RYAN drew acclaim from the New Yorker for the hook to his novel Heliophobia. He is the author of poetry collection The Bible of Animal Feet from Farfalla Press. I edited Ryan’s debut novel The Ishmael Blade and worked with him to develop Heliophobia and his work-in-progress Pogue.
JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with her to develop and edit her memoir of reconciling her liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland.
In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.