Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reading, wRiting and REVIEWS

In the three writerly Rs, the third is Reviews. Relieved that it’s not ‘aRithmetic?’ Relief may not last long.

I’m thinking less about the anxiety of being reviewed than my struggle with reviewing others’ work.

The great blogger/author/former agent Nathan Bradford asked in one of his posts if authors lose the right to review. This brought a barrage of comments, (writers have few rights already) and started writers’ chat boards buzzing. I should add that the Great Nate used the word ‘casually,’ as in casually trashing for the sport of it. I’m not a casual enough person, so it didn’t apply to me. But it got me reflecting on my own policy for self when it comes to reviews.

I should add that I adopted these self-rules before I became an author, and a beneficiary or possible target. I have no illusions that my few reviews amount to a mound of beans, but what I put out there matters to me.

The first self-rule was that I will use my real name. Anonymity is too tempting a place to release the snakes. No hiding behind Medusa from Maine or New York Nymph, (don’t I wish) – not for me.

The second was that I have no need to post publicly so-so reviews. It’s of no significance that this book was all right but well just not that great, and the main character could have… You get it. To me only clear endorsements or clear warnings of a deceptive dangerous product warrant attaching my name to them. Since one star reviews could draw attention to an otherwise seriously flawed book, I have yet to post one of those. I’d probably have to be pulled by a nose-ring to do it. (This may be one reason I don’t have a nose-ring.)

The third rule was to write few reviews, because it can become a full-time job to read and review. I still have other things to do. (One look at my house will confirm this.) To this end- my reviews are short, more like back-cover blurbs. No-retelling the whole story and never ever giving away the ending. I may wax eternal in private conversations about books I’ve read, but public utterances are in the no-spoilers-zone.

These are my own guidelines from which I am sure to stray, because I’m not a good rule-follower.

And to any out there who find any suggestion of constraint placed on their speech/reviews ludicrous, feel free to review this right here. I feel strongly that public discourse should be civil and considerate, so I set my comments to be ‘subject to approval.’ Censorship? Yup. But know that I censor myself first.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Phooey to Formulas

If I try to be like him, who will be like me?

That’s an old Yiddish proverb. {For someone who doesn’t speak Yiddish, I’m full of Yiddishisms. If there was ever a culture that looked at it itself with gentle irony and managed to balance humor and pathos, it’s Yiddish.}

I don’t have this subtle balance, and my utterings sound judgmental. So back to the ‘who will be like me’ point- how do you convey a dislike for formulaic thinking, formulaic writing, and, well, FORMULAS?

When I began writing I didn’t know all the you’re-supposed-to-thises and you’re-supposed-to-thats. I wrote, and wrote some of my most original stories. Not formulaic, and also not publishable. Eager to get more than form rejections, I learned to ‘be like him,’ to know what is expected. To study the rules and by-pass them only for a compelling reason. I still get a lot of rejections, but many are requests to re-submit and encouragement for my writing.

In the back of my mind that Yiddish voice, reminding me to ‘be like me,’ beckons me. Somehow I find myself searching for this balance- to be like him, and be like me.

{Now I wish I knew Yiddish, because if any language can embrace dichotomies and contradictions, this is it. You know about two Jews and three opinions, right?}

When editors say they are looking for something ‘different,’ writers on chat-boards have surmised they mean ‘something that is the same, but with a difference.’ Rare is the editor who is really looking for something that has no trace of formula in it. Something different.

Well, this is my struggle and my *sigh* today. Come sigh like me…

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Marketing and the Shy Person

How does a shy person tackle this thing called self-promotion?

We don’t.

An old joke tells of how to distinguish a truly shy person from a run-of-the-mill introvert: the introvert may look at your shoes when talking to you, while a truly shy person looks at his own shoes. That’s about how high they dare to fix their gaze.

Writers who wish to publish must sell themselves at every stage. First, the why you (the publisher) should take my story. Then- the why the market (virtual or brick and mortar) should pay any attention. Finally- the why you (the reader) should read it. There is no hiding behind a well-oiled marketing department. Even the largest publishers expect all but their A-listers to self-promote. With smaller publishers this is even more so. And if writers go the self-publishing route, they must become promotion machines. Highly *not* recommended for shy people.

Some shy-types have found that the social sites allow them to have friends or followers in the thousands, and they never have to look at anyone’s shoes. {If you are one of mine, know that I appreciate each and every one.} But let’s be honest about this: these are not friendships. Real friends give their time and attention and real friendships require no less from us. The most socially gregarious person I have ever met has less than a hundred real friends. I’m in awe of this level of connectedness, and can attest to said person being very busy maintaining those close connections.

Chat boards allow a shy person to put the word out. But generally this is where the word stops, and there is stays.

The other day I had what to me felt like an epiphany. I put forth what I believe is a mighty good offering. Initially it’s called a manuscript, and when published it’s called a book. That’s what I owe the world, and the world, in return, owes me nothing.

The pressure keg of how to make my offering be noticed by someone, anybody out there, suddenly dissipated. I’ll continue to offer my best, and come what may- I’ve done it right.

Oh, and will you please check out my book? I think you’ll like it. {Blush.}

I just noticed my shoes need some polishing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Quiet life of a Writer Mom

There’s a Yiddish saying- You can’t ride two horses with one behind.

But (homophone intended) isn’t that what we moderns do all the time?

I look at my own life. By definition as a stay-at-home mom it’s a calm life. Oh sure, there’s driving the kids. Yes, some house work and residential dinner chef services included. Oh, and that other thing, that little hobby of writing, which I insist on calling a profession and try to get paid for.

Then please explain to me why I am always busy and never catch up? No Dahling, it’s not the swank parties I attend. I’m a shy person who doesn’t attend parties, and my few dear friends are not swanky. No, I don’t sit in front of the television eating bonbons. What are bonbons exactly? The last time I saw one I was probably eight years old, and I don’t remember that far. I also don’t play tennis at the club (no budget for a club) and I don’t spend mornings kicking sand at the beach. When it comes to the beach I can glance at it from afar, with little time to actually go there.
What I do is ride two, nay- several, horses with one behind. By that old Yiddish saying, my life is an impossibility.
Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE MY BLESSED LIFE; or should I say- my lives? How many horses is this fellow riding?
And I did notice he is not using his one behind at all. You do what you have to do. Ride on!