Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Non-profits and the price of gas

$60+ to fill my gas tank? I'll whine and moan but I can afford this, grudgingly.
But what about folks on fixed incomes? What about schools and non-profits who are already dealing with state and federal budget cuts - how do they continue to deliver meals, transport people, and provide services? The Scranton Times had an article about this yesterday, and it echoes my own concerns.

On my path toward publication, I've been supported by a number of non-profits. The archivist at the March of Dimes helped me with research about polio. The Dietrich Theater houses my critique group. Members of my church family at the Factoryville UMC have been my beta-readers and I've spoken to the UMW group about my novel and the journey I'm on. I've used the public library sources and inter-library loan services extensively, even getting exercise handbooks from the 1940's from university libraries across the state. These services all require fuel. Costs are up and a stressed economy has pulled incomes and donations down.

I have no answer for the big picture, and I can only do what I can do. So here's what I plan - when my book is eventually published, I want to market it through non-profits and give them a portion of the proceeds. That way I'm supporting those who've supported me, and I'm giving to those who provide services that are near and dear to my heart, services of faith, the arts, for people with disabilities, and for children.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The angel in the marble

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
- Michelangelo

What an amazing gift Michelangelo had (the sculptor, not the Ninja Turtle), that ability to see the potential beauty in a hunk of stone. Those of us mortal types, more human and less divinely inspired, plod and struggle in our efforts to create beauty. I need help to see the potential of my work and I certainly need help to carve it away from its stone base.

To the rescue - the Writers' Group at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock. Our weekly critique sessions center around our collective need for input regarding our latest writing efforts. In 10-page segments over many months, I presented my novel to the group and got their feedback on everything from voice to punctuation, from characterization to dialogue. Many segments were handed back to me with a 'nice try, but fix this and bring it back again' approach. The opening chapter alone was rewritten a dozen times, maybe more. But with each rewrite, with each round of revisions large or small, the angel in the marble began to take shape.

Yesterday, a potential agent suggested changes I hadn't thought of, ones that would increase the uniqueness of the piece and its saleability within a tight publishing market. How wonderful that all along this journey, I've had people around me who see a way through to find the angel when all I see is stone.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Turning the familiar into something new

I never saw "Titanic" when it first came out for several reasons. The ads and that whining theme song made it seem like a sappy romance and I'm not a fan of those. But mostly, I didn't go see it because I knew the ending - the ship sank, lots of people drowned, others died of hypothermia. No big surprise ending. What would be the point of seeing it played out on the big screen for over 3 hours?

So imagine my surprise when Michael and I finally saw "Titanic" in 3D last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though it's long, the story's many layers kept the film moving along. There were indeed lots of surprises along the way, and a couple memorable characters. The romance was integral to the story, but not overdone except for that awful song. And even though I knew how it would end, my heart raced as Jack and Rose clung to the deck rail as the ship sank. What an amazing job James Cameron did turning that familiar story into something unique and new.

Stephen King's novel "11-22-63" strikes me the same way. Most people recognize the title as the date JFK was shot, and would assume the story is about that horrible day in American history. In a way it is, but it's more, much more and thankfully it's not about conspiracy theories or other attempts to shed new light on the assassination. King wrote the story as a time travel novel in which a contemporary man is given an opportunity to stop Lee Harvey Oswald before he kills JFK. It's a complex tale over 800 pages long, filled with the struggles of a guy who realizes that the past is now his enemy and that it will do anything to keep him from changing it. Not what I expected, much better than I expected. I should have realized King would work his storytelling magic on something as familiar as JFK's assassination and turn it into a whole new story.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The beginning of the end. Maybe. Hopefully.

With a whole lotta prayer, effort, support, and luck, I was indeed able to finish my revisions and get the manuscript off to the agents and the editor who requested it. It now has a new title - Risking Exposure - which I think better focuses (pardon the pun) on the fear Sophie must overcome.
Now I wait and see if any of them are interested in discussing the project further. If so, great! Let's talk. If not, it's back to the old grind of submit and wait.

I spent a couple hours today working on the 'supplementary documentation' that needs to be part of any historical fiction novel. I updated my bibliography, wrote up a glossary of terms, and started a list of people I'd need to mention in 'acknowledgements' when I get that far. I had 50 names! No kidding. I've been blessed with a great deal of support.

I'd often envisioned writing as a solitary journey, and like most of the arts, it is. But it's also a shared journey, and I'm grateful to those who have shared their time, feedback, and interest with me. Everything is more fun when it's shared! And my efforts have been made easier by the support of family, friends, and colleagues. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Understanding Palin, Everett, and Lincoln by their words

Matt Lauer on Today interviewed Sarah Palin this morning. Palin jabbed at her usual targets, using her pet phrase "go rogue" and more cliches than I could count. This time she added a new catch-phrase, calling the press the 'lamestream media.' Another Palin-ism to be tweeted around the world.

Time for me to use the remote.

I flipped to the History Channel, to a program about the aftermath of the Battle at Gettysburg and the creation of the national cemetery there. It seems that, at the dedication ceremony, the main orator was Edward Everett, former president of Harvard and a respected politician. Everett spoke for two hours - two hours!- delivering an eloquent speech. If his audience was anything like us, his points were forgotten in a communal stupor. Next speaker up, President Abraham Lincoln. He faced his probably glassy-eyed audience and delivered his two-page, two minute long Gettysburg Address, capturing the essence of the sacrifice given by the soldiers at Gettysburg and reiterating the importance of holding true to America as one nation.

The contrasting styles weren't lost on me. Palin's cheeky attempts to create buzz words, Everett forgotten diatribe, and Lincoln's succinct, insightful, and memorable words are writing lessons of the nth degree.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What a mess I've made

Thank God I'm off work this week. I plan to hole myself up for hours each day, finishing the rewrites on my book.

My original plan for the edits sounded straightforward. Take out this, replace with that. Oh, and strengthen the secondary characters. And get rid of the meandering sub-plot. And while you're at it, remove the extraneous clutter so the readers attention can focus on the real heart of the story - the girl whose disability makes her a target for the Nazis.

The process has not been straightforward. It's been methodical, in that I'm making one large change at a time, then rereading the affected chunks of text. But what's happening slowly and just as methodically is that the story's timeline has been goofed up. So today I looked like a kindergartener with my scissors and tape, literally cutting and pasting bits and pieces of scenes together while continually matching the altered scenes with dates on the vertical timeline I've drawn out and the dates on the 1938 calendar. Quite the unusual writing day, but worth it I hope.

I was able to identify a couple specific scenes I still need to create to connect the great swampy rewrite to the beginning and ending that already work well.

Here's to the pieces fitting together the way I plan.