Saturday, 25 June 2016

Why publish?

My dear friend Jeni challenged me with some questions after my previous post.  I often think of Jeni as the epitome of a critical thinker.  Perhaps it's because she's a nurse.

Anyway, her question got me thinking right away and I felt I needed some room to compose an answer.  So, here goes.

Jeni's question:  Does the place where the joy and love of writing come from not satisfy enough?  Or is there a time when it needs to be shared?  I am guessing it is like things in our lives when we want and need some recognition?

Which took me first of all to the question of why I write.  I came up with several reasons, some admirable and some not so much.  Certainly, there are times when I write for myself.  This is usually in the form of journaling when I don't understand something about myself, my life or other people and I need to write it out.  I don't usually share this with other people.  It's more of a mental health exercise, although it sometimes leads to writing to share.  My blogs may sometimes come out of this kind of place, although I'm always aware that the blog will be read by others and so I often delete certain things or even entire ideas that I don't want to be public or that won't interest anyone but myself.

Mostly, though, what I write is meant to be read.  I'm not sure if this is because I'm more of an introvert or because I'm a slow thinker, but I love the format of the page for communicating with others.  It may be argued that we read to find and understand ourselves.  I have repeatedly had the comforting and encouraging experience of reading a sentence, story, poem or book which so perfectly described the world or myself in a way I would never have put together on my own.  I hope that my writing does this once in a while.  I had the supreme compliment once from my good friend Katie, who was dealing with the passing of her grandfather-in-law, that she felt I was there with her because she was reading one of my books at the time.  I am so glad she told me.  That, in a nutshell, is one of the best reason I write.

Publishing and the desire to be published is different and yet, maybe not entirely.  Publishing is business and money and a certain amount of fame and or recognition (although for most this amounts to very little).  I'm sure that not all of my reasons for desiring publication are honourable, but I think some of them are.  Publishing is the way a writer connects to a reader.  Self-publishing allows for some of this, but without self-promotion, it won't necessarily get to anyone.  I loath self-promotion, and yet I do it in the hopes of connecting to a reader.

Traditional publishers have connections to readers.  Some of them promote for you, or at least with you.  It is also an affirmation that my writing is worth reading.  I can't deny that I struggle to write sometimes because I doubt it's a worthy occupation.  Apparently I'm not alone in this feeling.  Stephen King wrote "I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.  If you write (or paint or sculpt or sing, I suppose) someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all."  From On Writing.  I don't even need someone to tell me this.  I already think it on my own sometimes.

Who needs another novel?  Especially one of my novels, which really aren't that important.  I need more novels and more people to make sense of things for me through each confusing and overwhelming stage of life.  If I can share this experience with my writing one day, I feel that the pursuit of publication is valid.           

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Rejection Letter

A page in my journal of rejection letters.
Every so often, I forget how difficult it is to deal with rejection letters and wonder why I haven't been sending out my writing.  I become motivated and send out everything I've written, expecting that this time things will be different.  I've been writing for even longer now, I must be ready for publication.  A few weeks of hopeful expectation passes and then the rejections letters begin.

Mostly, rejection letters are form letters.  When I started sending things out, I used snail mail and I collected these letters in a notebook.  Now, I can save my postage most of the time and send my writing via email.  But, other than than, the process is the same.  Write a cover letter, send out what you think is your best work and wait in hopes of being accepted.

Today, I received a rejection with notes.  This response to my submission was optional.  I opted to hear the truth.  It was brutal.  While I greatly appreciate the time it took to reply to my work, I can't help but wonder if it could have been tempered with something good.  Perhaps this is hypocritical of me, but as a teacher, I know how important it is to look for the good in student's work while gently suggesting a bit of improvement.  It's so easy to focus on the negative.  Now, I'm thinking this story is beyond help.  Perhaps I should never have ventured outside my genre.

I'm trying to encourage myself with Julia Cameron's advice.  "And so, in order to be a good writer, I The Right to Write, p. 23).  She also says "The best and rarest criticism is constructive, and very few people know how to give it. . . "All (a writer) needs to find (their) stride . . . is encouragement and safety.  This does not mean that aesthetics go out the window.  It means, however, that we need to take the time and the space to discover our own aesthetic, and that does not happen when we get involved with instant cup of soup criticism and art by consensus." (p. 177).
have to be willing to be a bad writer.  I have to be willing to let my thoughts and images be as contradictory as the evening firing its fireworks outside my window."  (

So, perhaps the reaction of not wanting to send out any more writing is a healthy one.  Cameron calls it "Containment".  I'll let this batch of submissions run its course and allow myself to forget the sting of rejection until I'm ready to try again.  I am tempted to post the rejected story here, however.  I don't think I'll be able to send it out again.  It's tarnished now by the impressions of others.  I'd love a bit of advice here.  

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A Short History of Serialized Writing

Jo-Anne Sieppert Design
I was recently invited to apply to write for, which is an online serialized writing site.  It was the invitation that grabbed me.  What, somebody wants me to write for them?  After another long spell of rejections, I was intrigued.

In the back of my mind, I had a memory that several classic writers started by publishing their longer works as short excerpts in local newspapers or magazines.  Now that I’ve signed up to serialize my work Taking Comfort, I’m curious to know how many of my favourite writers went the serial route.
Charles Dickens was the first author who came to mind.  A quick search reveals he published at least six of his novels in this form including Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend.  It was a way to allow the middle class to access novels, which were generally too expensive, by spreading the novel into 1 shilling chapters over time.  Without the whole novel to give the big picture, the single chapter had to encapsulate an engaging beginning and ending and leave the reader in such suspense that they would spend another hard earned shilling to read the following chapter.

Henry James published The Ambassadors in serial form through North American Review.  Lucy Maud Montgomery originally intended a seven-chapter series about a red-headed orphan for a newspaper series, but instead, it became into Anne of Green Gables.  Louisa May Alcott wrote An Old Fashioned Girl in serial form for the Merry Museum Magazine as well as many other thrillers which she published under pen names.

I was hoping to find Jane Austen amongst the serialized writers, but unfortunately, the technology was not yet available during her time.
A more modern example is Stephen King who purposely wrote The Green Mile in a serialized form so that readers could not skip to the end and ruin the suspense!  He also wrote The Plant as a serialized story in lieu of Christmas card.  (Love it!  May have to try thisJ)

So, with these literary giants in mind, I decided to give it a try.  Will my chapters be intriguing enough to keep readers wanting more?  The Channillo website is based on monthly subscriptions, and as my novel is already finished, I intend to release it as quickly as possible to keep the suspense from killing anyone.  The great thing about the site is, you can also read other authors in many genres, while you're waiting for the next chapter.

It’s a new concept, but it’s given my novel Taking Comfort new life.  I finished it several years ago, but wasn’t yet ready to release it to the world.  It’s been sitting in proof form in a drawer for almost two years.  If nothing else, I’ll have a completed book at the end of this adventure.  If you'd like to give it a try, here's the link Taking Comfort

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Taking Comfort

Cover by: Jo-Anne Sieppert
Taking Comfort is the story of four unique young women in 1993.  Mallory is confident and beautiful but seems to exude a hardness of heart.  Sybille is popular and good; not the type to have a baby at sixteen.  Her sister Kate is a shy, mousy girl with only one real friend and Theresa spends her summer at camp, miles away from her attention-seeking friends and controlling mother.  One of these girls becomes pregnant, but the reader is kept in suspense until the end of the book.
The story is written as a book from a mother to her daughter.  Cara has never learned the details of her conception or her family, but her mother has decided the best way to share all of this information is through a book.  Taking Comfort gives the other side of being sixteen and pregnant.

The idea for this book came to me shortly after my daughter was born.  I was 28 at the time and I started doing the math to see how old my daughter would be had she been born when I was 16 or 17.  I started remembering life at that time and imagining what it would have been like.
At the same time, I was listening repeatedly to the Veggie Tale story, Esther: The Girl Who Became Queen.  Somehow the idea of picturing Bible characters as vegetables made me start thinking about what these stories would look like today.

This unusual marriage of ideas resulted in Taking Comfort.  You can start reading it today in serialized form at Channillo