Seek and ye shall find …

After I blogged about the possibility of venturing into self-pubbing, I went in search of a past article that featured a “to-do list,” for all self-published authors.

In the past 12 hours, I’ve destroyed my office in search of the electronic and hard copy of this article, gave my dog good reason to wonder why the hell he chose to live with me, and gave my neighbors proof that “The writer” next door really has a few screws loose.

But it doesn’t matter because I found it!

The article, 8 Things Readers Want from Self-Published Authors, which was posted in the May, 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, offers a “to do” list for the discerning self-published author, who wants to be taken seriously. I thought this relevant topic was worth sharing and reading again.

The top three to-do’s:

Hire professionals for editing, proofreading, and design.
Put most of your cost toward editing. That means, aside from development or content editing, you must eliminate all proofreading errors and typos if you want to be taken seriously. Evelyn Lafont also recommends using beta readers to put out quality work.
Hire a conversion house for clean e-book formatting. (By the way, TheGreenStudy offered that bit of advice in our discussion about self-publishing. Way to go!)

You may want to take a look at The “Self-Pub Is Crap” Debate, which served as the catalyst for the to-do list.

This time around, I’m making a copy to hang on my wall and I’m storing one in Google docs just before I clean up the mess that is now my office.

Enjoy.

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I’m a writer: Is it okay to scream for joy now?

“It’s an exciting time to be a writer.”

This seemed to be the buzz phrase at the NJRW conference I attended last weekend. Every other workshop, particularly those that spoke about the expansion of E-pub, self-publishing and the juggling for position of traditional publishing, seemed to hold this sentence in high regard.

After, reading an article about authors no longer being at the mercy of publishers, I began thinking about my options, and started to see the truth in those few words.

While I’ve mentioned that I would love to be published by a traditional publisher, I’m starting to see the possibilities of venturing into other avenues of publication, which may lead me back to that traditional path.

At one point, traditional writer’s organizations, such as RWA, didn’t acknowledge self-published authors as “true” authors. In all fairness and appreciation, RWA is an organization whose mission is, “to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income.”

The organization didn’t believe that the author should “pay” for the publication of one’s book. I totally get and respect that.

However, as we all know, times are changing.

Authors are trying to broaden their readership, have control over their work and sell books where they can. Thank goodness, RWA was savvy enough to recognize that many of its members have gone the e-pub and self-publishing route, and support them. This is a good thing.

As I see it, I can remain a member of RWA and NJRW and be considered a “published” author, even if I self-pub. Granted, the author must make a certain amount in revenue from their self-publishing to be considered a true published author within RWA.

But even with that caveat, (which isn’t unreasonable) this new consideration gives an author the opportunity to get their books out, particularly when traditional publishing is slow to pick up and rejections are more than overwhelming.

If I decide to go the self-publishing route, I will follow two words of advice that often come with the, “it’s an exciting time to be a writer,” cheer—copy editor. I will secure the services of a copy editor who can go over my book with a fine tooth comb and offer suggestions that will make my book the best it can be.

I don’t want to publish crap. And I don’t want to try and sell it to anyone. IMHO, some of the books on the self-pub scene totally missed that important piece of advice.

Just tossing it out there on this Thursday afternoon.

TGIF: Two days of sex, passion and books …

This weekend the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Conference, (NJRW) whose theme is “Unleash Your Passion,” happens and I’ll be there.

I’m looking forward to the lineup of guest speakers and presenters, which includes best-selling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Heather Graham, Susan Wiggs and husband and wife team, Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick.

There will workshops for writers at all levels, some include:

  • Using POV to create emotionally powerful scenes
  • The Core of Romance
  • Women’s Fiction: Hitting the Genre’s Sweet Spot (see, told you there’d be sex!)
  • E-pub, Self-publishing, Marketing and Selling the book and the Future of Publishing for the Writer

There are also editor/agent appointments for those pitching their books, a Literary Book Fair, where authors sign their books for their fans, and most of all, networking opportunities.

I’m not pitching a book this year. However, I will be handing out business cards (which ALL authors should have–yet to be published and published) and networking. I’ve met some of the most fantastic people at these types of conferences, not only as supporters of my work, but as friends.

The NJRW conference will also have a professional photographer on site to take studio and environmental portraits. Need a new head shot for your book or Web site? Say cheese!

While I’m there, I’m going to take a trip to Barnes and Noble, which is only 10 minutes from the conference location. There are a couple of new books I want to pick up.

    I find J.K Rowlings’ adult book,“The Casual Vacancy”very intriguing. It’s also on Nook, so I will be making my e-book purchase!

    Ken Follett’s,“Winter of the World” (part of the Century Trilogy), which is on Nook as well! Yippee!

    Actor and Director Penny Marshall’s, book “My mother was Nuts,” looks hysterical.

    I couldn’t buy books without including a Romance novel. “Return to Willow Lake,” by Susan Wiggs, one of the conference speakers, is on my list to buy. It’s on NOOK as well. However, I may purchase this at the conference, so that I can get Susan to sign it! Perfect timing!

By the way, the authors signing at the Literary Book Fair donate a portion of their proceeds to literacy. Nice, huh?

I’m taking a bag large enough to transport all my new books—those I plan to buy and those I don’t!

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Are their eyes still watching God?

“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” Zora Neale Hurston

I’ve always been fascinated with the Harlem Renaissance, and the geniuses who embodied a time of artistic expression. I gobbled up any and all literature about the eclectic, cultural period, and the players like poets Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen,writer Jessie Redmon Fauset, artist Romare Bearden, and historian and scholar W.E.B DuBois.

In 1980, it was by sheer stubbornness that I discovered the work of writer, anthropologist, and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. I was writing poetry, a few short stories and had begun to think about a novel. I was pleased to learn that Mrs. Redmon Fauset was a leading female writer during the Harlem Renaissance.

But then I became agitated. Why weren’t there more female writers during that time? I started digging–again, and then ran across an article about a woman on the verge of becoming one of the greatest literary figures of our time. Zora.

I began devouring her books, short stories, and her life. Born in 1891, Ms. Hurston and her seven siblings lived with their parents, who were prominent leaders in their middle-class community. Although she had a pleasant childhood, she was astute enough to recognize the often fragile imperfections of life, especially after losing her mother at a young age.

I was mesmerized by her work, “Mules and Men” and ultimately, her most famous book, “Their eyes were watching God,” a spiritual journey of a middle-aged woman, Janie Crawford, toward love and self-awareness in rural Florida in the 1930s.

I remember dreaming of what it would be like to bounce ideas off Ms. Hurston or have her critique my short stories, much like Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris,” a writer who travels back in time and becomes friends with greats Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway.

Hurston was such an inspiration to me, which makes the fact that $943.75 was the highest royalty she ever earned from any of her books, heartbreaking. She never received the financial rewards that we as writers hope to achieve. Not so far-fetched, it was still hard for me to fathom that this eminent figure of the Harlem Renaissance died in 1960, penniless.

However, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Alice Walker, author of the “Color Purple,” and a few others who have taken an active interest in the power of Hurston’s work, her ideologies and words live on, much like another hero of mine, Edgar Allan Poe.

In 2005, Oprah Winfrey produced a television adaptation of “Their eyes were watching God,” which starred Halle Berry as Janie Crawford. It received mixed reviews, often citing that the movie left out important concepts found in the book. One thing is clear, it thrust Ms. Hurston’s book back into the literary world–after being out of print for almost 30 years–and took it by storm. Again.

August 2012 marked the 75th anniversary of, “Their eyes were watching God.” Since its original publication, it has been lifted from years of obscurity and now appears as required reading on many college syllabus.

Harper Perennial, (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishing) sponsors The Zora Neale Hurston Award, which honors librarians who demonstrate leadership in promoting African-American literature. A fitting tribute.

Finally, Ms. Hurston’s grave in Florida is no longer unmarked, and is clearly identified with the epitaph: Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.” I hope to visit in the near future.

Are their eyes still watching God?

I believe so. Just read the books of Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison,
and Alice Walker. Listen to the voices of emerging writers, who use the 1920s and 30s as the setting for their WIPs. There’s an undertone, an echo of Ms. Hurston’s voice, and often with the gritty, primitive dialog once criticized by many—particularly Renaissance elites.

Good versus evil, man vs. nature, man vs. man, search for love, the meaning of life, and the fight against societal dictates are still prevalent themes that keep readers reading, teachers teaching, and literary scholars and critics debating.

And in that place where literary greats like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Langston Hughes gather in heaven, Ms. Zora Neale Hurston is there too, watching us.

Why Olympian medalists and writers could be BFFs …

While enjoying the 2012 Olympic games, and all the wonderful achievements, I became a little nostalgic and in serious need of inspiration.

So, I decided to do some digging to find out what type of history was made on August 8.  Immediately, I was reminded of two events: the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles, which I watched with intensity, and the achievements of one Olympian in particular, Carl Lewis.

On August 8, 1984, Lewis won his 3rd (200m) of 4 gold medals in the Summer Olympics.  I remember being glued to my television, watching history unfold as my two daughters (then, ages 4 and 2) sat nearby, playing. 

I didn’t answer the phone or the door because at that moment, nothing was more spectacular than watching Carl cross that finish line. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I wanted to celebrate his victory because I know what it’s like to want something so bad, you can see it in front of you.

Some of his other achievements during that Olympic year include:

  • August 11, 1984 – Carl Lewis duplicates Jesse Owens’ 1936 feat, wins 4 Olympic track gold metals
  • August 6, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins 2nd (long jump) of 4 gold medals in Summer Olympics
  • August 4, 1984 – Carl Lewis wins gold medal in 100-meter dash at LA Summer Olympics

Wow.  He was fierce. Dedicated.  And probably, at times felt very much alone.  Sound familiar?

Every four years, I look forward to watching the Olympics.  It’s a sort of “kindred spirit” period for me. Through the games I learn about people who know firsthand, what it means to sacrifice a life considered “normal” to pursue their destiny and their dreams. Many of these fantastic athletes negate friends, family, relationships, movies, books and yes, dessert, to stay the course that may lead them to Olympic gold, silver or bronze.

If not for the Olympics, we may have never heard of the obstacles and challenges experienced by Olga Korbut, Nadia Comăneci, Mary Lou Retton, (also a 1984 winner), Katarina Witt, Shaun White, Usain Bolt,  Michael Phelps,  Rafael Nadal, Gabby Douglas, Sally Pearson and Florence Griffith Joyner (affectionately remembered as Flo Jo).

While the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles was filled with controversy and boycotts, it was still an inspiring and memorable event. And the issues surrounding the games, didn’t take away from the achievements of those who competed. In the end, it was still a testament to those athletes who—day in, and day out—pour their souls into their craft—their calling.

Just like writers.

To Carl Lewis and Olympians past and present, I salute you. Maybe one day we can shoot the breeze, talk shop.

To writers enduring rejection letters, submitting your work, revising your manuscripts, and waiting to review your first or fiftieth galley, I applaud you. We’ll get there.