Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A FORTUITOUS MEETING


My husband Danny and I went away this past weekend to The Inn at the Crossroads, Rte. 29 and Plank Road, between Keene and Batesville, Va, partly for a romantic weekend and partly to research Batesville for my novel-in-progress, ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL.

Well, lo and behold, but Sunday morning, we ended up having breakfast across from a delightful couple, Bill and Lynne Reed, owners of Misty Valley Books in Chester, Vermont. Being a new writer, it was an incredible coincidence because they have an annual event, New Voices, with debut authors, including, in the past, Dennis LeHane and Arthur Golden. Additionally, and this gives me goosebumps despite knowing that novelists are regular folks, they've had dinner at John Irving's house, and they 've seen his wrestling gym. Oh, wow! Oh, wow!

Being a true brainiac, I told Lynne and Bill that I've always wanted to visit Vermont. I used to want to live there because I love cheese and syrup. I guess I am proof that writers, even soon-to-be published ones, are regular folks. As my mentor, Tom DeHaven, always remarked, "I'm better with words on paper than in person." So true. So true. Sometimes I feel like an imposter, but who am I trying to be? Just me. Just me. If you are ever in Chester, Vermont or nearby, stop in and introduce yourself to Lynne and Bill. They are great people. I'm going to make sure they get an advance copy of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, and maybe they'll like it, and I'll be a NEW VOICE.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

ALICE HOFFMAN


I know that Alice Hoffman is a highly creative, intelligent and disciplined artist and regular girl who hikes her black skirt up the same as any other girl, but just the same: WOW, I started her novel THE THIRD ANGEL last night. This was one of the books I chose from Shaye Areheart to take home when I was visiting New York... and it's autographed! I didn't realize that she had autographed it. There's something, as a reader, that makes a writer's very handwriting sacred. It's like, "Wow! She made that mark. That's her signature." I remember the first time I read correspondence--actually saw, under glass, letters--between Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I was filled with awe and wonder, imagining myself a part of their world: maybe Zelda, but then again maybe not; I don't want to be institutionalized.

The short of it: I am honored to have an autographed copy of THE THIRD ANGEL. The novel is brilliant. Thank you, Alice Hoffman and Shaye Areheart.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SWEET RIDE


In celebration of nothing in particular, or maybe because every soon-to-be published novelist needs a sweet ride, whether it's a BMW, a Porsche, or (drum roll please) a Raleigh Special with pink-walled tires, I got one! I am in love with this bike. Boy, can I throw money around or what?! I told Chad at Agee's: "I want the works: pink tassels, shiny bell and basket." He said, "What kind of basket? What are you thinking of carrying in your basket?"

"The obvious, Chad: keys and wine." What a silly question. Honk if you see me out cruising or maybe don't honk. I lack balance. I might fall off the bike.

Now I need some good basket swag...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Read any good books lately? Please share. It's always interesting to hear what people like and don't like.

I am reading THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST by Mohsin Hamid for book club. In addition to being a riveting page-turner, this first-person tale is seductive, luring me page by page to the point where I know that I can finish the novel in an hour, but I don't want it to end that quickly.

The shift between narratives is effortless. The character Erica is beautifully and sadly rendered, and I think I love her as much as the main character, Changez. My only fear is that what I "suspect" might happen is going to happen. I don't really know. I sure hope the ending is as good as the first half.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

AMERICAN IDOL

I heart Adam Lambert. (Mind you, I'm happily married, and I'm not a teenie bopper or a stalker, but my goodness, he's got it going on...)

Monday, March 9, 2009

IF YOU THOUGHT SELLING YOUR BOOK WAS HARD, JUST YOU WAIT...


Publishing a novel is a long and complicated process that no one in MFA school teaches you about. Why? Because most of us or a lot of us don't get our novels out there on bookshelves.

It's an unfortunate and disappointing fact, depending on the writer, but true.

My mind is all over the place tonight so forgive any leaps and jumps.

Here is a good starting place: Back in December when I told a local bookstore owner that I had recently sold my novel to Random House, she said, "If you thought selling your book was hard, just you wait." AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me? Please tell me that you are joking! I beg those with experience to chime in. After receiving hundreds of agent rejections, after writing and rewriting and cutting all my little darlings and all their little friends, writing 100+ new pages and cutting 100+ old pages: can it really get tougher? Is the art department at Random House going to intentionally screw with my head by coming up with some absurd cover art? Is my agent suddenly going to forget my phone number? Is my editor going to scratch out full pages and laugh like the wicked witch while I stew?

If you've published a novel, let me know what you think. I suspect that it gets tougher because there are many people involved, because there is a lot of waiting now: for the edits to be completed; for the copy writer to copy write; for more edits; for the art department and marketing; for the galleys, for the reviews, for the book itself to sit in my hands. But, that's all kind of exciting compared to waiting for rejections to appear in the mailbox. What do you think? Based on my experience so far, I am very happy with the process. I don't know what the future holds, but I am seriously optimistic. I hope that you might chime in with some feedback. xo michele

p. s. Michelle, I know that you won't forget my number, and Sarah, you're no wicked witch. You're more like Piper, Paige and Phoebe ("Charmed"). Oh, how I love Balthazar! I mean Cole.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

SNOW BLOG

I don't write SNOW!

WhY?

1. Because this is the first time we've had more than a dusting in close to a decade.

2. Because Richmond is too sticky and hot to ever really think, "SNOW." Which as you can see must always be in all caps.

3. Because I can't do my childhood remembrances of sledding down Hollis Road justice.

4. Because no one can do it as magically as James Joyce in "The Dead," which I'd quote, but heavens to Betsy, I can't find my copy of DUBLINERS.

Above: Me, the snow lady Roberta, and Annie.
Below: Christopher dons hand-me-down Patagonia. This is his first snow day!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who knew I could write such a good query?

If you are a writer, or if you are a person who's experienced rejection, you will understand this: I spent 8 + years sending out queries for short stories (no takers) and 5 + years querying various incarnations of my soon-to-be published novel THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS, and Saturday, I received one of the worst standard rejection form letters; the agent actually pretended to have read a ms. that was never sent. I had only sent a query letter. "Dear Author..." Her rejection indicates the typical, "there was much to admire in your work," but the funny bit is that I didn't send any "work." I sent a query letter. Just the same, she "enjoyed reading [it]." Who knew I wrote such engrossing query letters?

My advice to this agent: Have separate rejection letters for queries and separate rejection letters for submissions. It's kind of pathetic on her part; it's insulting to potential clients and writers. I just received this query rejection dated 2/24/08, and my novel sold on 11/14/08. I hope this agent rethinks her approach. There are so many people on the web badmouthing the query process and the publishing industry, most of which is uncalled for: publishing is tough. It's incredibly tough! In my mind: this agent, who probably didn't read the query, and most certainly didn't read a submission that was never submitted, gives all that badmouthing credence. Boo! Don't fret. There's still time for her redemption. No one is beyond hope. More advice: remember that writers are people who care deeply about their craft. Rejection is part of the deal, but it can be handled more humanely. Again, separate your queries from your actual submissions, and if your client list is booked, send the form that states, "I am no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts." A little goes a long way. xoxox