Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday Writings - Rule Breakin!

Good morning, writerly and/or bloggy folks! It's already up in the mid-80s here in the deep deep south, and all our feets is bare, so at least that factoid shows some portion of the time continuum is A-okay.

Today's writing tutorial "Rule Breakin'" attempts to show that breaking the rules [a subject near and dear to my heart, as you know] just might get you where you wanna be. It also reminds us, dear readers, that if you are intimately familiar with rules, it is okay to break them. And further, that there really are no hard and fast rules in the crazy world of writing and publishing. Don't believe me? Well, shame on you.

I'll begin with a little 411 on myself. I'd written a true short story years ago and submitted it around to publications and places I'd researched and targeted. Alas, nobody was interested in a story about a little boy with AD/HD. But instead of scrapping it, I was even more determined to see it in print because it meant something to me personally. Enter an anthology call-out for Christmas stories that involved traditions and family. Voila!

The Modern-Day Drummer Boy was in the running for a coveted slot. Sooo, long story a bit shorter, I heard yesterday that the story will be #7 in Christmas Traditions (out in September), and a nice check is on its way to me. Can't wait to hold my copy and see the fruition of years of perseverance in print! Rule broken? "If work doesn't find a home quickly, scrap it or go back to the drawing board and totally revise." a stubborn goat-head and keep looking for a better fit. *grin*

Now, I also have several friends, nay, powerful author women in my immediate circle, who have broken the rules of querying agents and finding publishers that flouted popular wisdom, yet somehow led to their success! See Deborah LeBlanc's cool website for more on her, and I'm about 99.99% certain that Super Woman Kimmi Richardson broke every rule and barrier set against her to get her book The Unbreakable Child published.

Still not convinced? Then read a bit more about our own maverick crazy writer woman, Kathryn Magendie in the interview below:

GW: Is it true you have to have multiple degrees (preferably in English) and an MFA to get anywhere in writing?

KM: Okay, I will never knock education—ever. But, I do not believe that degrees write your books or get your books published or make those published books a success. It’s hard for me to speak about degrees since I didn’t attend college until I was in my 40s and I haven’t finished yet. My English classes helped me to see that what I was doing instinctively actually had a name; imagine that? Once I learned those names, those rules, for what I was doing, I was able to see how I manipulated the language and then learned to do it smarter. Although, for me, instinct still writes more than conscious thought. If I had gone to college earlier, I may have started my writing career earlier, but who wants to look backward? Not me!

GW: Are you a "second rate" author if you decide to publish with a smaller or indie press?

KM: If an author thinks of themselves as second rate then they are—no matter who they publish with. There is always going to be someone who publishes with a bigger house, or gets a bigger contract, or sells more books, or gets an award, or on bestseller’s lists, or is on Oprah, or wins a Pulitzer. I stay true to my journey and my words and the language, my characters, my voice, my love of writing, and that’s what I focus on; however, there is the dreaded business side and I have to think about that, too. I’ve read that about 5% of authors are traditionally published, of that 5% about 1% make it “BIG.” If that’s correct, then those are intimidating statistics.

Small indie presses are wonderful to work with. BelleBooks has listened, they are supportive, they’re wise and witty women, and I’m proud to be a part of their author list.

The beauty of small presses is you have a voice and you have support and you aren’t lost in a sea of authors. The beauty of large presses is a bigger budget.

I was completely surprised by an agented author I recently met who is published with (Big Name Publisher Here) and unhappy! So, there you go.

GW: Do you have to belong to a bazillion professional associations to establish a platform?

KM: Most writers have to do the majority of their own promotion and marketing, no matter who they publish with. So, there has to be a certain amount of touting. And to do that touting, one must be somewhere on the Web.

For me, a good blog is important –and fun, because you feel supported and embraced. I’ve had a blog for several years now. I have a professional website that I don’t “play” on (TechBelle did mine and I am very happy with the results) that shows what I’ve published, etc., but I don’t have to fool with it much.

I’ll be letting go of some places I’ve joined simply because it takes away from my writing time. Geez, there are so many places and forums and associations out there, there’s simply no way to do it all, and if you spend your time scattered about, you’ll have no second, third, fourth, and more books because you won’t have time to write them!

I would hope that good word of mouth would help propel my book into reader’s hands. Yes, that’s my hope.

GW: While writing TENDER GRACES, did you constantly work on your branding?

KM: Nah. Um, okay, what’s that? *laughing* You mean talking my stuff up? I talked about Virginia Kate quite often because I love her. I talked about my process because I wanted support and commiseration when things were tough. Also, in the meantime, I wrote short prose and a few poems and shot some photography for OCEAN magazine – those I sent out to help “get my work out there.” I edited and did my volunteer work with The Rose & Thorn. I supported other writers because I wanted to. If all this helped me when Tender Graces came out; well, that’s great! But I did everything I’ve done out of love of words, books, writers, and language, and not with designs on getting people to buy my book(s), although it is nice when they do (teehee).

GW: Tell us, are there really crazy voices in your head?

KM: Well, yes and no. They aren’t “Crazy, they’re coming to take me away haha hoho heehee” voices, they’re just characters milling around in my head. Imagine a house full of people or an apartment with its many units. Everyone is in different rooms doing their own thing. They are waiting their turn. Some are sleeping. Some are in the kitchen cooking up something. Some are lying on the couch grumbling about how they are being ignored. Some are hiding in the dark. And, some are rocking on the porch with me having a cup of Deep Creek Blend or a glass of wine or a vodka tonic with lime, and we’re talking – those rocking on the porch are those I am in communication with and who I am working with.

I addressed this kind of thing in a novel I can’t wait to have time to work on; I’m calling it The Sad Surreal World of Kathryn. It’s a bit revealing and I’m going to be nervous about that revealing if it’s ever published.

GW: Could you share with us batty bloggers some deep dark secret on writing a great book?

KM: Get out of the way (of your characters, story, etc), Writer! Okay, that’s not deep dark. But it’s important. And tell the nasty voices that love to say you can’t do something to shut the hell up. Write with love and sincerity and joy—the picky side of you needs to shut the hell up, too, at least until you have the first draft written. I guess there really isn’t any deep dark secret. It’s all been said and most of it is true. One thing I never try to do is to tell writers not to do this or not to do that or that if they don’t do something or think something or produce something a certain way they shouldn’t call themselves writers. Pah! [Interviewer sidebar: Ha! No ruuuuules!]

Most of us have doubt. Most of us are afraid. Most of us want to hide under the covers. However, if you just plow ahead despite all these things nipping at your heels, then you will find out where your journey will lead you. Otherwise, you’ll just stand there blinking in someone else’s bright lights.

GW: To agent or not to agent -- that is the question.

KM: And if I had that answer, my stomach wouldn’t be sloshing around its contents right now! I do not have an agent. I queried BelleBooks publishers on my own. I get emails from other authors urging me to be represented by an agent. I just haven’t figured it all out yet and frankly am in a “wait and see” kind of mode. I’d never turn my back on the people who took a chance on me. If getting an agent helps BelleBooks and me, and if I obtain one and it all works out peachy for us all, then good.

GW: Are there extra fears concerning writing book #2?

KW: Oh god yes. *pant pant*

GW: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? (LOL)

KM: OMG! You remembered! HAW! I thought of this just yesterday!

Okay, it takes me about twenty and then I have to bite it. I think I’ve gotten maybe to sixty-three before I bite. Only once did I make it through the hard candy to the soft center without biting, and alas and alack, I forgot to count! Curses!

GW: Your best advice to writers still behind ya on the trail?

KM: I always ramble on this question and indeed, can you believe I cut back this answer? Haw! I just want writers to be supportive of each other. I want writers to feel confident, to write with love, to believe in the power of their words and the language! So—

Believe in yourself and your work. If you do not believe in you work, who will?

Don’t listen to too many voices telling you about your manuscript. Find those you trust and then actually trust them, using your own instincts as a guideline. No one sees my novels until they are finished (other than a very early on submit to a critique group when Tender Graces was going to be a short story—where you, Angie, urged me to write VK’s story in a novel).

You must develop a sense of who you are as a Voice. You must have confidence in you and your characters and story. You must believe in what you are doing. That said, if you are not like me (I will write the novel no matter what), and instead you don’t want to feel as if “you are wasting your time” by writing a novel you are not completely sure will be published, then perhaps you will need to fling your words before a test audience of the writer’s group or wherever it is you fling your words to be critiqued.

Just don’t let some Negative Nelly or Negative Ned push you into a dark place where you don’t want to write—run from them, fast.

Thank you for this fun interview, Angie. I hope I haven’t rambled too much and bored everyone to tears!

Thank YOU, Kat! You could never ramble too much for my likin'. Good luck with Book 2, and don't forget to come up for air sometimes.

Maverick Kat and her Gloria Swanson/Sunset Boulevard photo. "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille." You young'uns, go rent the DVD!
LOL ~~~~~~~


Amy Sue Nathan said...

Congrats on the publication!!! I always have a long list for where to submit and I work down that list for as long as it takes to publish the piece. I always start at my dream pubs of course...but my dream is realized when it's published, no matter where that is!

Rebecca Nazar said...

Whoot! Congrats! Inspirational post, I'm going to break some rules today--telling and adverbs and wordiness, oh my!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

What a great interview, thank you, Angie and Kat!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Thanks, Amy. You go get 'em!!

Do it, Becca! You'll love yourself for it, even it you don't score right away. LOL

Carrie, totally my pleasure. :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Gawl dang - I think I just wrote another novel up there *laughing*

Angie - CONGRATS on the story - yes yes yes! I can't wait to order my copy, too - and you are like me -- I find the place instead of the place "finding" me ...

Thank you for this opportunity to run my mouf -- love ya sister-friend

Janna Qualman said...

Great post, great interview with Kat! It's all inspiring.

And congrats on your story and its new home!

Michelle H. said...

First - congrats on the short story Angie!

Second - great interview Angie and Kathryn!

Third - there is no third rule because I plan on breaking all the rules in publishing and doing it my own way! MWAHAHAHA.

Thanks for the info!

Sharla said...

Love the interview...and congrats on the story earning you a check!! Getting paid for this crazy life is the ultimate dream!

Jessica said...

First, congrats Angie for your sale! That's awesome. ;-)

Second, great, great interview. Kathryn gives wonderful advice. :-)

kimmi said...

Angie, whoo hoo congrats on the story and check!!!

Great interview!! Awesome.

I always say; the rules are no more than guidelines. ; )

TheWritersPorch said...

Angie & childhood playmate Melinda Haynes wrote the Oprah Book,"Mother of Pearl." It was her first book! Melinda has suffered from panic attacks since her teens. Melinda quit high school in the 11th grade and got a GED because of the attacks. Melinda Haynes never went to college.
She has written three wonderful books.
I have a quote on my sidebar from Melinda about this very subject.
I do not believe " southern writing" can be taught in a class room! It comes from "within" and from "place". That is why the South has so many wonderful writers!


Mary Ann said...

You just up and did it, didn't you? Just like Kat. Just like Deb. Hmmmmm. Seems to be some connection there, some variable, some element.

Oh, you just up and did it! That's how! (Hehe) Laughing for you in my den of no return. Congratulations! Please let us know when we can order our Christmas book. We'll all read #7 first, I bet.

Angie, if you can write, submit, and publish during this time, then all of us can. No more excuses. Just look at you.

Love you, sis,

Melissa Marsh said...

Awesome, awesome news, Ang!!! So proud of you!

lizspin said...

Okay. . . now I'm ready to break the rules!

Will I get a check too???

Anonymous said...

Great interview. Not much chance of a published article or book from here, but it is fun to watch people's eyes when they get why you do something.
This is the payoff for me.

Scobberlotcher said...

Yay! Congrats to you, Angie!

And I really enjoyed this interview..particularly what she says about getting out of the way of your characters. :)

giddymomof6 said...

WOW! Angie! Congrats on your story making it! ANd I love the interview with Kat! She sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to read her book! Jenni

Polly said...

Awesome!! What a thrill to be published, knowing other people will read what you have put your heart, soul, sweat and probably tears into. I love the interview with Kat. She has such a great sense of humor. You know, I am so happy to see someone who isn't afraid of making a mistake or using an incorrect word!!

AVT Coach said...

Although I am not a writer there are many lessons in this post from your words and Kathryn's interview. Excellent interview by the way, Kathryn is a special soul! Her book is on my list to get my library to buy! Congratulations to you in getting your story published. You and Kathryn both do a very nice job of sharing with the blog world your insights about writing..which is more than writing. Know that you are giving for the greater good! Loved the post! Blessings to you and your mom!

Terri Tiffany said...

This is the book we are in together!!! I got my email too so I can read your story!!:)) Congrats that we both made the cut!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Golly gee whiz, I went to take a nap last night with the intention of just being abed for an hour or so, and never woke up to get back in here and answer all your great comments! Ah...the plans of mice and men! :)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Kat, it was all fun for me! Thanks for the good words. Terri Tiffany has a story included in the same anthology. How cool is that? Thanks again for the interview. Twas fun!:)

Aiming to inspire, Janna girl. Thanks.

Michelle, attagirl, and you're welcome!

You're so right, Sharla. :)

Jessica, my pleasure. Really!

Amen, kimmi. Guidelines!

Angie Ledbetter said...

TWP/Carol, you speak da troof! :)

*waving to my sweet SIL, Mary Ann* You found your way here! Thanks for the kind words. You ARE my Tabitha always. *grin*

Melissa, thanks. You (and your Challenges) always encourage.

Um, Lizspin, about that........

Oren, thanks. And, yeah, it's all in the eyes. :)

Glad you enjoyed, Scobber. (But surely you don't need helpful writing hints since you've already published your suweeeeet JANEOLOGY!)

Giddy/Jenni, I can promise you as sweet and funny as Kat is, her book is even better. How's that for an endorsement? :)

That very same thing peels my apple, Polly! Thanks for coming by.

AVT, thank you SO much. Yes, many life lessons always found in Kat's words. You are a peach!

That makes me even happier, Terri. We'll be together between the covers! (Hey....wait.....that didn't sound right.) LOL

MRoth said...

Congrats Kat!!!

This was the most inspirational interview...kudos to both you and Angie! WOW. I feel like writing!

I can't wait to dive into _Tender Graces_ as soon as I finish my semester. Here's to your book, and many more!


Susan Cushman said...

Just found your blog and love it. Will definitely get Tender Graces. I'm a memoir writer (it's in progress) so this was really inspiring!

Deb Shucka said...

I loved reading this interview! Especially since I finished Tender Graces yesterday and loved every word on every page. VK is hanging around in my heart - probably for a very long time. Both of you are such great mentors and teachers. Thank you!

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