Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thoughts from the basement: Literary equivalent of a new wardrobe

Thoughts from the basement: Literary equivalent of a new wardrobe: In my last blog post, I compared the Kindle launch of Risking Exposure to sending my adult children off into the world. That would make th...

Literary equivalent of a new wardrobe

In my last blog post, I compared the Kindle launch of Risking Exposure to sending my adult children off into the world. That would make the launch of the Nook version and print versions the literary equivalents of new wardrobes. So, Sophie and her story are fully outfitted for a variety of weather (and several reading formats.)

My plan from here is to give back to folks who have helped me along the way. First and foremost is the Dietrich Theater which houses my Writers Group. The theater/cultural center is a non-profit committed to the arts in our community. They have housed our weekly group meetings for a decade or so, and have allowed us use of their copier free of charge. I wrote the novel with the guidance provided by ongoing critique from my fellow writers there, so giving back to them is a no-brainer. I plan to develop some sort of 'all the proceeds go to the theater' event in association with the book, and hopefully hold the event this fall.

Since I am my own publisher, the book has zero publicity unless you as readers help. I don't want the book to, as Billy Joel so aptly says, "get put in the back in the discount rack like another can of peas." If you enjoy the novel, please leave feedback on Goodreads, Amazon, or Nook so others who stumble across it can see your rating. Thanks!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My book leaves the nest and goes live on Kindle!

I have spent years caring for Sophie's story, fostering its development, feeding it and letting it rest, smoothing over its many rough spots, and watching it grow with pride. So my analogy is easy - sending Risking Exposure into the world is a bit like watching my children set off on their adult lives. Just not as heart-wrenching.

A parent knows when it's time for a child to leave the nest.
Risking Exposure had received some 'close calls' in traditional publishing but as the saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. It became clear that if the story would ever leave the comfort and safety of my computer and fend for herself in the bigger world, I'd have to help her find a place to live, then pack her bags and send her off myself.

So I did. I spent countless hours learning about the options in self-publishing, watching tutorials, reading articles, studying various design features of the books I own. I found a tremendous amount of help on Create Space and KDP sites, and decided to use their formats to give Sophie's story a home. Next, I did what all women do when we find a new home - I went shopping.
My friend Lisa at Lisa Lee Photography took some great professional shots for my book jacket and website. And speaking of websites, Michael Rausch from my writers group at the Dietrich is designing mine. And the biggest and most important purchase of all - Michael Rausch also designed my book's cover.
Pretty amazing.

Now I've sent her off. The Kindle version is available! My files have been uploaded to Create Space and are 'pending approval.' If all goes well, I'll have a print copy to proof before the end of the week. That will (hopefully) make the print version available by the week of the 22nd.

Like all parents sending off their young, I have big hopes for Sophie and her story. I hope she'll make some friends, touch some hearts, and find her own way in the world.
If you enjoy Risking Exposure, I'd love to know. You can email me at Or leave feedback on Goodreads, Amazon, or Create Space. Thank you!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pursuit of a fuller truth

Yesterday, I watched this TED Talk by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled "The Danger of a Single Story." She describes the inherent limitations in our understanding when we see a group of people from only one point of view. The video clip is less than 20 minutes long, and this young woman is articulate and engaging. I recommend taking the time to watch it.

The preconceived notions westerners had about her and her family, notions that were formed in and perpetuated by popular literature and media, were stereotypes caused by a dearth of knowledge and a superficial truth. Her point is well-taken - if we are given only one point of view, 'a single story,' then stereotypes will perpetuate and the depth and dimension of the truth will elude us.

Our job as writers, teachers, bosses, parents, community organizers, etc. is to speak the truth in our work, revealing multiple facets of our subject matter. It's our duty to convey more than one side of the story to our audience so they come away with a fuller understanding. And fuller understanding will be closer to the truth.

We've all read sad, horrible stories set in Nazi-era Germany, and unfortunately many of them fall into this 'single story' mold. I didn't want my story Risking Exposureto be another one of those; I wanted it to reveal a different facet of the truth of that time and place in history. So I chose to tell the story through the eyes of an insider, a girl in the Hitler Youth who has only been told the preferred truth, her society's 'single story.' When changes in her life open her eyes to other dimensions outside of that single story, she sees a fuller truth. Hopefully, readers will also.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How my 8th grade self's tombstone rubbing ended up in my book

In my adolescence and early teens, I had the good fortune to spend a couple weeks of summer vacation on Cape Cod with my friend Anne and her family. Anne's mom was a high school English teacher with a fascinating blend of etiquette and quirkiness. When we visited a local grist mill, she encouraged us to role-play Don Quixote fighting windmills; when we went clamming, we were treated to lengthy explanations of the plight of local fishermen. I came to expect a new perspective at every turn.

So the day she handed me a long roll of white paper and a brown wax block, I wasn't surprised. "Where are we going?" I asked. "To the cemetery," she said. "To collect poetry from old tombstones and hang them in the classroom."

I'd never seen poetry on a tombstone, just names and dates and maybe a little phrase like, "Loving mother," or "Forever at peace." But I was game. And sure enough, in the old sections of Cape Cod cemeteries, she led us to whaling-era tombstones etched with elaborate poems. Poems about the brave young man whose life was cut short by the merciless sea, the fair maiden who walked the pier awaiting his return and probably still walks there today, the stooped old woman who watched from the Widow's Walk atop her waterfront home, hoping and praying for her son's return. Dutifully, I rubbed the wax block over the paper to catch the words beneath, then carefully rolled the paper until it could be hung in the classroom. Honestly, I've forgotten most of them.

But the sentiment expressed on a very simple tombstone has stayed with me to this day. It was a plain stone, etched with a woman's name and the dates of her birth and death. Centered above that was the single phrase, "She hath done what she could."

I sat back and stared, stunned by that beautiful truth. Such an incredible testimony to a life well-lived. What more can we want than to do what is within our power to do? This woman may not have had money or success in the eyes of the world, but she had used the power given to her.

All these years later, that simple phrase still resonates with me. When I wrote my novel Risking Exposure, I integrated the search for that truth, that power into the main character's story line. The last words of the book are "I have done what I could." A totally satisfying ending for a story, taught to me by the memorial of an 19th century stranger's life.