Monday, July 21, 2014

On...Remaindering Revisited

Two books due out in May 2015. And as ever, the initial euphoria is joined by the "what ifs"...what if the publishing houses go out of business between now and then, what if no one comes to the readings, what if there are NO readings! And, of course, the specter of "remaindering." This is an up-cycled  blog post from 2008, but still (unfortunately) on my unbalanced mind:

From 2008...

Remaindering is the practice whereby unsold books which remain at the publishing house are disposed of - sometimes by selling them off at huge discounts to stores like Sams or by destroying them (shredding or burning usually). My own contract with PP says that if they want to remainder my books, they have to give me the opportunity to match any third party (i.e. Sam's) offer.

The idea of being "remaindered" used to fill me with dread. I mean, how much worse can it get than to see one's baby on the "75% OFF" stall at some giant discount store, next to a selection of coloring books (with crayons) and The Dummy's Guide to Macramé.

But no longer. I have just finished Hardy's The Return of the Native. I collect Norton Critical editions because I enjoy the critical essays at the back. In addition to the essays, they usually include some kind of historical wash-up, and in the "Composition, Publication, and Scholarship" section appears the following note:

The Return of the Native was published at 31s. 6d. in an edition of 1000 copies on 4 November 1878. The reviews were not flattering, and in 1882 there were 100 quires [unbound copies of the book] and 22 copies in cloth to be remaindered. (322)

It seems that the book was lucky to have been published at all; it was turned down by a number of publishers - book and magazine. Leslie Stephen of the Cornhill magazine turned it down because he felt that the relationship between Eustacia, Wildeve and Thomasic might get a little too dodgy for the magazine readership to handle.

I often imagine that the classics enjoyed plain sailing into publication. I'm finding out again and again that this wasn't so.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

On...Image and Inspiration

Once, when I moaned that I had no friends, a man told me that in order to make friends, you have to be a friend. I took it to heart and while I may not be the most social of women, I went out and searched for things to do and for people to do them for. I now have three or four friends who I love dearly...and maybe twenty or so acquaintances I was nice to.

I apply that man's advice to my writing. How often do I find I have the time to write but worry that I am without images...that I have been deserted? And then a glimpse of something from some past time comes to mind. I turn it over a few times and slowly its words arrive...sometime begrudgingly and slowly, but they turn up solidly enough for me to form a first draft of something.

Those images are dredged up from my past. At some time, I have courted those images. I look upon this "courting" of images in the same way as my "being a friend" to people who might not become friends. Everything I see and feel and touch may someday reappear in my work and become as important in the moment as those three or four friends.

Today, I find myself with time to write. I am in Greece staying with my sister and I have time for serious work. But nothing is arriving. I am deserted. And so, I am courting images...I am making friends with with gardens, with tavernas on hillsides, with the idea of a woman I saw today walking down Argostoli street--ritzy in a thin cotton shift--with a tiny black dog on a pink harness in one arm and on the other, a bazillion gold bangles. I can see her. She is burned in my mind's eye. And there is the street market, with its fruit and the Greek shuffling boxes of strawberries and peaches, standing back to see which combination looks better. He is beautiful, his skin so glossy, he looks oiled, his t-shirt stained and thin. The concrete is wet and shiny with water, the hose a green snake hiding between boxes of eggs and what looks like bunches of red-rooted dandelions.

What will I do with this? WHEN will I do with this? Who knows. But one day, a glimpse of that boy, of that woman, of the pink-harnessed dog will percolate up and I will be working again on a first draft. But not today. Today, I intend to relax on a sunbed and soak up some more sun. Avrio is the day for words.

Monday, July 14, 2014

On...BONE SONG, my first poetry collection

Such good news! I received an email from Mary Caroll-Hackett recently congratulating me on winning the 2014 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. The long and the short of that is that my first poetry collection Bone Song will be published by Briery Creek Press (through Longwood University) late spring of 2015.

My initial euphoria at having two books due for publication was quickly followed by a short spell of panic: two sets of edits, proof readings, launches, and marketing projects. A little like finding out one is expecting twins!

I need to organize and keep myself straight. All this is doable. What a wonderful challenge to have!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

On...Veracity and What Our Mothers Know

A few weeks ago, I posted an account...a memory, if you will, of my first period. The details were as fresh in my mind as if I was thirteen-and-a-half and not fifty-four. I could feel the shag pile bath mat beneath my knees, the cold rim of the toilet pan under my fingers. I could hear my mother coming up the stairs and pulling the box of tampons and the towels from the bathroom cabinet and handing them to me before disappearing downstairs. All the senses were activated in that memory.

And yet it could not have happened.

My memory has the bathroom and the toilet in the same room...and yet in 1973, they had to have been still separate rooms: so my mother could not have handed me the tampons; there would have been a wall in the way. But my memory hands me that same image each time it returns to that day.

My mother, surfing my blog via my sister's Facebook account, was the first to say it did not happen. It was not the wall that caused her to doubt the account. It was that she would not have handled the situation in such a way. And knowing my mother well--as well as I know the position of that wall dividing our old bathroom from the toilet--she has to be right: she would not have acted like the mother in that memory.

So where does memory and reality part company? The copy of The Water Babies I held on my lap each month for what seems to be years, is real. I have it on my book case; my periods did begin in 1973;  my reading life stemmed from the "blocking powers" of literature. But the mother in the room that day was not mine.

Where does she come from? She is not the mother I wish I had--who could want such a woman? Perhaps she elevates my need for romanticism. Would the scene have worked as well with a mother who ran up the stairs, stuffed a pad in my pants, and wiped my tears away. Probably not.

Either way, my mother's reaction to the entry has made me return to that day and to examine it.What  happened? What happened exactly? Who knows.

Perhaps that is why the world of creative nonfiction, for me at least, is fraught. Perhaps that's why I find the world of fiction roomy and forgiving.. I'd welcome your thoughts on this whole idea of memory and its reliability, on the value of veracity in creative work, on how we can write about family without running the risk of hurting and harming--not only our families but also our writing.

Monday, July 07, 2014

On...The Mo and Kitty Story or "My Lover was a Catfish"

Follow the link for an update to the Mo and Kitty story, where Kitty tells Mo of her concerns over Russia and her love of spats, and Mo asks Kitty if she can ride a bike and to sever all connection with her other Facebook beaus..."

Monday, June 30, 2014

On...Mo and Kitty: a catfishy love affair

Follow the link for an update to the Mo and Kitty story, where Kitty voices her concerns over Nigerian princes and where Mo tells Kitty about his job on an Oil Wail and poses questions in order to ascertain Kitty's suitability as a wife..."

Monday, June 23, 2014

On...Mermaids and Self-Publishing

My second novel, The Beginning Things, comes out next summer. I'm excited to be working with another small independent publishing house. They feel somehow new and a little edgy, and that's injecting some good energy into my writing life. The press accepted the manuscript last month, and as well as soliciting reviews for the jacket, I'm working on final edits due at the end of September.

I had decided that if I wasn't able to interest a traditional "paper" publisher (The Beginning Things will come out in both paper and e-book versions), I would walk the self-publishing route, both as a means to get this work out there and to hack my way through what sometimes feels like the wilderness of self-publishing.

As I cast my research net online, I snagged a mermaid...or at least a mermaid tale from Publisher Weekly that speaks to the self-publishing decision. Brenda Peterson, author of seventeen traditionally published novels, turned down a publishing deal for her latest book Drowning World because of too long a lead time: it was accepted in 2012 but the publication date wouldn't happen until 2014. Peterson felt that schedule might cause her book's mermaids to miss the thematic tide--particularly since Twilight's Stephanie Myer was reportedly working on a mermaid title of her own.

So Peterson published Drowning World as an e-book...but here's the good advice: she made sure she was surrounded by a team of professionals: editors, designers...and a film agent. Plus she financed Drowning World through a $5000 Kickstarter project.

I'm currently working on two new projects. They're both outside my comfort zone (one's a picture book memoir and the other is a modern day "Battledoor" reader), and I'm wondering if maybe one of these might be a good self-publishing project. Or maybe it's time to start that third novel I've been mulling over that presses its fingers into sex and the post-menopausal woman. Maybe the experiment would be best undertaken with a genre I know.

Interesting times.