Monthly Archives: February 2009

Another Website for Writers

Authonomy is a site put up by Harper-Collins UK. It’s a place for writers trying to get published or working on revisions to network with each other and read and comment on their work. A lot of what’s up there is very good, much better than on CreateSpace which unlike Authonomy was set up for self-publishing. Authonomy isn’t a contest, but there’s a prize — several writers previewing their work on the site have been picked up by Harper Collins-UK.

I’ve put the site on my “favorites”. I’ve also put up my recently revised novel, Loisaida. You can read the pitch and/or the book by going here: If you take a look and you like the book, you can help by registering at the site, putting the book on your “bookshelf” and writing a comment. And of course if you’re putting your work up, let me know and I’d be happy to do the same.

Everybody’s Losing It

Recently, I went to an author talk/book signing at a New York cultural institution. The talk was in an auditorium and the book signing after was in the lobby. The books, however, were on sale at the institution’s bookstore which was down the hall, so first you had to shlep over to the bookstore, get on line (as we say in New Yawk), and wait till you get to the cashier to pick a book from the very limited selection available.

The line moved slowly, but amicably. There was some confusion with people occasionally stumbling into the store and asking, “Where are the books?” or “Is this line?”

I was with my friend Karen. When it was my turn I asked a question, “Is this all that’s left?” The cashier replied, “Just what you see here.” It was not a good situation. There was still a long line and there clearly weren’t going to be enough books for everyone on it. At that moment some confused soul sprang forward and asked the cashier, “Is this where the books are?”

She snapped at him, “Do not interrupt me!”

I explained it was where the books are. Karen, who has many of years of customer service experience, then said calmly. “He was just asking a question.”

“I’m stressed!” The cashier replied in a tone that I heard as a warning, not an apology or explanation.

Then Karen said something else. Maybe, “Okay, but you could have just answered his question.”

By now she was putting through my order and verbally attacking Karen, yelling loudly enough to silence all conversation in the store. “You are interrupting me while I am doing my job. You need to be quiet now.”

Karen was continuing to try to have a rational conversation with a woman who wasn’t. “I’m not keeping you from doing your job.”

The cashier threatened to call security if Karen continued to speak and did. The guard looked at two middle aged women in the process of buying books. He stood by with a neutral expression as the cashier told him. “Okay you know what to do.”

After completing our purchases, we walked past the line. A woman who’d been sitting in front of us earlier, said “I’m terrified to go up there.”

As bizarre as the incident was, it was also familiar. Four weeks ago at an airport, my husband and I had just gone up to the counter to drop off our luggage and the counter-agent said, “I was yelling for you to come. Okay, I guess you’re not in a rush.”

I started to explain, “We couldn’t hear you at all. I was looking at the counters. Finally I saw you waving.”

“Well I was shouting pretty loud!”

“They really should do something. Have lights and bells that you could see and hear from back there…

“People just ignore us! No consideration for the people working here. I guess you’re all too wrapped up in your vacations….”

“No really, they just can’t see…”

My husband by this time was already whispering for me to move on. He had visions of us both being tackled by airport security and permanently placed on a no-fly list.

It’s not just customer service people. It’s everyone. Most people I know have work situations where it’s known that so and so and such and such aren’t on speaking terms and this makes meetings either a little bit tense or totally absurd. The root of it all is a sense of powerlessness. The cashier was like the groundhog that bit the Mayor when he stuck his hand in its cage. She felt she was being attacked in the little bit of territory that was hers. Who knows what staff cut backs and other nonsense the woman at the airport was dealing was?

You can’t reason with irrational people. You can’t get them to see your viewpoint or make yourself any clearer. The best you can do is engage as little as possible and keep moving. If they happen to be co-workers you need to work with or heaven forbid a supervisor, you’re screwed — especially now with the job market that much tougher and everyone trying to hold on to what he or she has.

What’s the answer? Take care of yourself. Remember to pop those vitamins and the fish oil (flax seed if you’re a veg.) Get enough sleep. Eat right and exercise. Be extra kind to those you love, and remember the next time a cashier calls security or you catch your co-workers rolling their eyes at each other during your presentation, that it’s not about you, and it’s about as personal as being stabbed by a crazy man on the subway.

Lunch Time Conversation

“They moved Betty to another table.”
“I’m sorry to hear that Mom. I know you like Betty.”
“They put this new woman there, Rosalie. Ugh, I can’t stand her. She’s always asking questions.”
“She’s new. That’s understandable.”
“She always wants to know, what’s going on here? What’s to do?”
“She takes an interest….”
“She’s always saying how wonderful everything is. Trying to get people to go with her when they have a shopping trip or sit with her at the afternoon movie. Everything’s ‘great’. ‘Oh your daughter is coming to visit! Isn’t that great!’”
“Ma, I gotta tell you, I’m not getting what the pro….”
“And she’s a Holocaust survivor. She won’t let you forget that. “
“ I told her my life was no bed of roses either.”

thoughts on entering yet another writing contest…

I’ve entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. After my experience with the 3-Day, one might question the wisdom.

The 3 Day broke my heart in part because I wrote a novel (or more accurately novella) The Death Trip, specifically for the contest. If I hadn’t had the 3-Day deadline, I don’t know that I ever would have started or finished it. The time limit forced me to tell the story and not get lost in subplots or introspection. If I’m the mother of the work, than 3-Day is the father or at least the sperm donor. I’m proud of that baby, especially the way he grew and developed following his premature birth, so entering was worth it, despite the emotional repercussions of daddy’s abandonment.

I don’t expect to win the ABNA or even come close, and the work I’ve submitted, Loisaida had a long history before I even heard of the award.

The ABNA is sponsored by Create Space – Amazon’s self-publishing arm. The winner gets published by Penguin with a $25,000 advance. The expected 10,000 entries are first judged solely on the pitch. Most people will be eliminated before their manuscripts are seen by anyone. Loisaida is dark and not easy to categorize. My intended audience is not everyone. While I hope the quality of the pitch will carry me, it wouldn’t surprise me if I don’t make it past the first round.

The 3 Day was started by writers and is about the process. The ABNA was started by Create Space and is about publishing. 9,999 people will not win, and if a good percentage of them decide to self-publish through Create Space, than Amazon is the biggest winner. The ABNA has an American Idol-style aspect. The public gets to download excerpts from the top 500, rate and review them. Once the judges pick the top 3, the readers vote for the winner. Penguin gets a book that has already been vetted by industry insiders, gotten publicity and built a fan base.

So knowing that this is all a capitalist plot, why enter? Because:

Everything is a crapshoot and at least this one has no entry fee.

If I make it to the top 500, that means that my pitch was deemed “worthy” by Amazon editors AND my excerpt made the grade with Amazon Vine reviewers. My manuscript will be reviewed and rated by editors from Publisher’s Weekly which is an enormous free service which will provide useful feedback for further revisions.

In the extremely unlikely event that I reach the top 100, (kinahora, pfft, pfft), the manuscript will be under review by Penguin editors and have a shot even if I don’t win. (Meantime, the excerpt will be out there for agents and readers to see.)

So the trick is knowing what I know, not to wind up gliding on my hopes and crashing if/when I don’t make it to the top 2,000 or 500 or 100.

When I was younger, I both wanted to write and wanted to be recognized for having written. The recognition didn’t come and I stopped writing. Now that I have some wisdom and can hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near,, I want and need to write more than ever. If the writing life means taking on just enough paid work to get by, I’ll make the sacrifice. Whether I choose to write is one of the areas of my life where I have the power. What I can’t control is other people – agents and editors who may not like my work or may not think it’s marketable.

By nature, I’m pragmatic and like comfort — a true Taurus, not that I believe in that crap. It would be icing on the cake to have recognition and actually make money doing what I love (not that I don’t love what I do now). So for me, the test of my wisdom is to send out the work and enter the damn contests and learn what I can, and not let my ego crash every time I lose or every time I get a form rejection or a scrawled “not for us” on a returned cover. The test is not wasting time.