Monday, January 31, 2011

Custom jobs

I just sent my picture book to a denominational Christian publisher. It took over an hour to research their specific submission requirements and modify my cover letter to meet them. Turns out submitting to agents and publishers can't ever really become like a production line. I'd hoped that once I had a few letters drafted, all I'd have to do is find new potential companies and then blast them off. No such luck; each submission is a custom job.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Here's part of why Chapter 22 of The Cookbook Collector made me so happy: it contained a key scene centering around a peach, that most sensuous of fruits. Given that I wrote so much about peaches on the Theology of Desire, seeing one handled so perfectly in this chapter was pure deliciousness.

(Click here for examples:

Too bad Ms. Goodman couldn't have stayed in the place she conveyed so well in this scene.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Allegra Goodman comes through

I still don't get why Ms. Goodman cluttered up The Cookbook Collector with so much extraneous story, all the intricate details of boom and bust in particular, but this morning the effort to get to Chapter 22 was vindicated. In a single chapter all was rewarded.

Before that there were occasional tantalizing snippets but they were presented meagerly. Without them I would have given up altogether, but if there had been a few more I would have turned pages eagerly in hope of finding the next one on the next page. I'm guessing she used this as a device, but if so, she walked a dangerous line, particularly for someone who has a sizeable stack of unread library books wafting promise from the bedside.

Thank goodness for Chapter 22.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Freedom and obedience

Yesterday afternoon I worked on character development scenes for my protagonist, and before beginning I prayed. I'm trying to remember to do so before starting any writing work. As I prayed I also thought about blogging about praying, and felt hesitation, wondering if revealing my faith could be a detriment to getting published. But then I heard "No more hiding."

Over the past years I've had to do a lot of covering up of my faith. My home was full of beloved atheists. My office was no place of prayer. My non-profit work would have been hampered by a public proclamation. In this past year of seismic shifts, my Abba keeps reminding me that I no longer have to hide it. That I'm no longer supposed to hide it.

So I step out in faith here and now, confessing with my fingers that He is my Lord. I dedicate every word that forms in my mind and passes through my hands to your eyes to His glory. And I leave the details of what He will do with it to Him.

This is peace and joy indeed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Will the real illustrator please stand up?

I sent off specs to two potential illustrators for my picture book yesterday. Still trying to figure out if self publishing or co-op publishing might be the way to go for this one... Of course cost is a huge issue, and so am hoping for a starving artist, or a person who is enchanted by the vision and willing to wait for royalties, or some other romantic concept made flesh.

The pictures are crucial for this book. I'm not sure how so many children's authors are able to hand off the text to a publisher knowing that they'll have no input on choice of illustrators, style, etc. Perhaps that's why there are so many author/illustrators in picture book land.

I am grateful to be a person of faith, and can rest in the certainty that the right pairing will be made, even if it takes time. Now I just need more patience...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Initial comments on "The Cookbook Collector"

I began reading The Cookbook Collector 2 days ago, a book that I've been hearing about for some months. So far I'm giving it 2.5 pens out of 5 (pens being stars in my rating system.) I like the concept, but the diffusion of focus across 3 characters is a weak point for me. I'm on page 87 and haven't figured out who the protagonist is yet. The character I have the most sympathy for and interest in is undoubtedly not it.

One part I do like is the timeframe. It's set in the late 1990's, bust. I've been trying to figure out when to set the novel I'm working on, and have been thinking about roughly the same timeframe.

There's been no mention of cookbooks yet. Frustrating given that I'm a cookbook junkie. Am trying to be patient though, certain that cookbooks come to those who wait.

Internet presence continues to unfold

Didn't get much actual writing done today, but DID work on this site, adding in a page for published works, and a link to my other/old blog. Links can be found on the top of the right hand column. I've used Blogger for years and never had such formatting problems as I had on the published works page... probably due to using such a fancy template. One more example of it being better to look good than to feel good I suppose.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dour fiction

I've been noticing a trend in fiction; books which are consistently dour, dark, and without resolution. I'm wondering if these qualities are the current definition of "literary" for fiction? Is a book "commercial" if a protagonist moves from conflict to resolution, from weakness to strength, from darkness to light? Are people less smart, refined, and enlightened if they want to see progress? Does being smart, refined, and enlightened require assualting yourself with hopelessness and a belief that life essentially sucks?

If so, I guess I'm doomed to be a commercial writer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mary article

Just sent off an article about Mary's annunciation being the first Eucharist to Canticle Magazine. We'll see...

Commercial vs. literary fiction

I've been reading a lot of fiction, aiming for decent stuff but ending up with a mix. Trying to figure out the line between commercial and literary fiction. I think it might be one of those nebulous things like the point at which dusk turns to darkness.

Recent titles have included White Oleander by Janet Fitch, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Anne's House of Dreams (a Green Gables sequel) by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (still reading), Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay, and Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks.

Obviously Sparks' work falls under the commercial category, and the quality reflects it. (No offense Nicholas.) He's got a knack for coming up with compelling story concepts, but the writing itself is a bit weak, and the character development is shallow.

But what about The Secret Life of Bees? Where does that fall on the spectrum?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Characters take shape

My protagonist is shaping up nicely. The way she looks and dresses came together yesterday, along with why. She's not what I expected, and I like it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Picture book

I've been submitting and querying a children's picture book for the last few weeks. Tiresome business indeed. I think it will end up as a beautiful book some day, a book that parents will love reading over and over again to their wee ones, as those wee ones demand.

It's hard to picture that day at this stage; the day when my vision for the illustrations actually comes into existence. The text on it's own reads like a weak poem. It's a wonder any picture books get picked up given how starkly they read outside the context of their pictures.

If I were more of an artist, I'd do it myself. But I have just enough talent to be dangerous. I'd be just like the person described in that old saw: the person who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.

I'm often foolish, but am not completely a fool.

Social media blues

The business of writing in 2011 demands participation in the social media world. Insert heavy sigh... I just spent nearly an hour setting up a FaceySpaces account for this new/old me which was a pain in the butt. Theoretically I should be blogging, tweeting, Facebooking daily, meanwhile keeping up on submissions and contests.

Oh, and by the way, I should be WRITING.

If writers were paid by the hours invested, we'd all be rich.