Sunday Sentence

I’m participating in David Abrams’ project, Sunday Sentence, from his blog, The Quivering Pen, in which, “Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.”

“Poets, like detectives, know the truth is laborious: it doesn’t occur by accident, rather it is chiseled and worked into being, the product of time and distance and graft.” 

Source: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann; Random House NY 2015.

BTW, Colum McCann will be reading from, discussing, and signing this book in Huntington, NY, at the Book Revue, on Saturday, December 12, 7 pm, at 313 New York Avenue (Colum’s tour originally lists December 11, but it has been changed to December 12th, as per Book Revue).

Thirteen Ways of Looking

Anyone else wish to join in with their favorite sentence of the week?

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

You’re A Good Writer

In this season of thankfulness and giving I am reminded of those who encouraged me in my writing. And I would like to express my thanks to them.

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Who could have foretold that the girl who liked to read Nancy Drew mysteries would grow up to write her own stories?

Since I have become a professional writer and do events where I appear as said writer, I am often asked how long I have been writing. I usually say that I got my first writing job on the junior high school newspaper when I was twelve years old.

My listeners smile and understand how that could be. Studious girl… likes to write… becomes reporter for the Francis Scott Key Pointer. But the story has a beginning that started with an ordinary interaction between teacher and student.

I had been in the seventh grade for a few weeks, and our English teacher Mrs. Lineberger was giving back the first test papers of the semester. As she put mine down on my desk, she said what for me were magic words: Anne Marie, you’re a good writer.

I’ve never forgotten her saying that.

Not only was it the first time somebody told me that I was a good writer. But it was Mrs. Lineberger, who said it. And wasn’t she not only the best English teacher in the world, but somebody I felt sure wouldn’t have said something that wasn’t true.

But… there was more to come. During lunchtime Mrs. Lineberger took me down the hall to the classroom of another English teacher, Mr. Cook, who was the advisor to the school paper. She introduced me again with those magic words – a good writer – and Mr. Cook promptly put me to work writing articles for the Pointer. The next year I was appointed the editor.

I can still remember some of the stories I wrote. Since our newspaper came out every other month we concentrated on features. I loved to do personality profiles. The first one I did was about a boy in my home room, Gary, who was a terrific artist. His career goal, however, was to be a bus driver. I sat down and interviewed him, wrote my feature about what I saw as an anomaly, and Rembrandt The Bus Driver was published.

Another profile was written about Joyce, the best athlete in our grade. In the article I predicted that one day she would teach physical education. A few years ago I ran into her at our high school reunion, the first time I’d seen her since we’d graduated. She told me that she had recently showed that very story to her granddaughter who was amazed that I had correctly forecast “that you’d be a gym teacher, Grandma.”

And all this started because I had a teacher who encouraged me to write.

Francis Scott Key School where I got my writing start. (This renovated building looks a lot different than the one I attended.)

Francis Scott Key School where I got my writing start. (This renovated building looks a lot different than the one Gary, Joyce and I attended.)

For the last two years I have been teaching a writing group at the local senior center. I use the word teaching loosely. Because what I do is more along the lines of coaching. Like Mrs. Lineberger, I like to tell my participants when they have written something good.

These seniors are a lively group who enjoy to write in all genres – fiction, poetry, drama, essays. The talent among them amazes me. They draw on their life experiences, their imaginations and their sense of humor. And what continues to impress me is how important writing is to them. My job is to stimulate them to stretch and improve. And they do.

So I’m thankful that my life has come full circle. Where once I needed encouragement to get started as a writer, now I can give that same support to other aspiring writers – of any age.

Thank you, Mrs. Ethel Lineberger and Mr. John Cook, former members of the English Department of Francis Scott Key School in Baltimore, Maryland. I hope I’ve made you both proud of me.

Advice to Writers

Are you familiar with the site AdvicetoWriters.com? If not, I highly recommend it. The Daily Quote of the Day is always a gem. The information on the site, “Writerly Wisdom of the Ages,” is collected by Jon Winokur. Advice to Writers also features interviews with writers.

jpg_writing400You can subscribe to email to receive a Quote of the Day, and follow Advice to Writers on Twitter @AdviceToWriters.

Another of my ‘go-to’ sites for writerly advice and inspiration is the interviews from The Paris Review. The archived interviews with authors date back to the 1950s. From Truman Capote to Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway to Henry Miller, and James M. Cain to W.H. Auden, The Paris Review interviews provide hours of fascinating reading.

Do you have a favorite site for writing advice and/or writer interviews?

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

When Do You Beta?

Beta image by Arturo D. Castillo on Flickr. Creative Commons license, unaltered.Not long ago, I sent off my Gothic to some beta readers. After I did, I read a couple of comments on writerly loops about the fact that they use beta readers as a final check on their books and I suddenly panicked. Not because I think they’re right (I don’t think there’s a “right” way to write a book — you get feedback when it works for you) but because I thought these poor people who’d said they would beta were going to expect a book that was basically finished.

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

Perhaps I ought to call my readers Alpha readers. The things I want from betas are not that useful after the book is in its final form. I want them to tell me where they’re bored, where they want more of something. I want them to say “this scene needs to be longer,” or “that scene should go away entirely.” If they find a character unbelievable, or they figure out the villain too soon, or they recognize a MacGuffin, those things will have a huge effect on the revisions I do to the book.

For me, beta-ing takes place at the same time as developmental editing, not at the same time as copy editing.

How about you? Do you beta? If so, when?

Publishing and Promoting Your Book

At a writer’s conference, on Saturday, at the Ferguson Public Library in Stamford, Connecticut, my home town, several writers and I, on a panel, were asked to address the subject of getting your work published.

My own story started with a self-published book in 2006 and then my first traditionally published book in 2013 and then another in 2015.

After two hours of discussion the conclusion was that there is no easy way. But, writers have more options today, and the general message to writers in the audience of about sixty, was to never give up. If you want your book published, you can do it.

Self-published books, once called “vanity press” are now dubbed the more respectful label, “Indie Books.” Publishers Weekly who wouldn’t once give them a glance back about nine years ago, now have a book review section for Indie Books. Larger presses, who were impossible to reach without an agent, now have Ebook versions of books and are more welcoming to unknown writers. Libraries who wouldn’t invite an author who self-published, now are more accepting. Agents advised that once you do get a book traditionally published keep secret your self-published book, if you have one.

Times have changed since 2006 when I self-published my book Animal Instinct, it is no longer a stigma to self-publish it is a badge of self-confidence, and you should even tell your traditional publisher about it, agents now advise.

Once in print, joining Yahoo book clubs was the one solid suggestion as a way to promote. If you are with a large press or small press it is the author who will take the book to the public through every available promotional venue, digital or otherwise, unless he or she is a well-known brand.

What have you found to be the best form of promotion? Is social media working for you?

Do you advertise on Facebook?

Caught Read-Handed at a reduced price!

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Caught Read-Handed is STILL at a reduced price on Amazon. Amazing but true! I am sure the price reduction will disappear soon so if you are interested in getting a copy of for yourself or a someone who you know loves to read beachy cozy mysteries, now is the time. Click here for the purchase link.

And as an added Monday morning treat, here is a picture of Fort Myers Beach, setting of the Read ’Em and Eat mysteries.

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The pier at the foot of Times Square

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