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Transforming Your Thoughts Into a Published Work

By Dr. Patricia Fitzhugh

When my ex-husband initially uttered the words “the move” on our 19th wedding anniversary, I had no idea that the events in the days following would become a published memoir of my middle-aged marital experience. These are just a few notes about my first publishing experience.

What prompted me to start writing?

I started writing this book, The Move, Memoirs of a Mid-Life Marital Crisis, five years ago but I didn’t start off with the intention of publishing a book. I was journaling about my feelings of anger, sadness, depression and the swift changes that were occurring in my life at the time. I decided to capture my raw emotions and feelings on a daily basis. Most of my inspiration to write came from reading about other people who had similar experiences, their stories were the ones that helped me want to share mine and help someone else just as others had helped me.

What were some of the steps I took to transform my notes into a book?

  1. I kept journaling until I ran out of words. This process is sometimes referred to as emptying out. Once my mind and heart were empty, I knew that this particular book was finished.
  2.  It took over two years to complete the editing process. Some of the editing was grammatical while other edits were content related.  I sought guidance from other writers who encouraged me to consider the level and extent of the details from my personal journal that I wanted to include in the book. I had to ask myself questions like, “How much of my life did I want to expose to the world?” Some of the content in my journal was explicit and I had to consider how this information would affect my children in the present and future. I also had to be sure that the content in the book was intended to serve as a mechanism for helping others and not hurting the people who may have been portrayed negatively.
  3. I turned the manuscript over to the publisher once I completed my edits. My book was self-published, so most of the work done by the publishing company included editing, formatting, cover design, printing, filing paperwork for the copyright, obtaining the ISBN number, getting the book online with Amazon, designing marketing materials, and announcing the book release.

 How did I find a publisher?

Many years ago when I first starting hosting women’s conferences, one of the speakers we invited to participate in the conference had a publishing company. She had published books by some of the other speakers that attended the conference over the course of several years. She also facilitated workshops about transforming manuscripts into a book. While my schedule didn’t afford me the opportunity to attend these workshops, the publisher had videos and a publishing guide on her website about the process that included pricing and a choice of plans. I was able to read about the process and research the services she offered. I would recommend you ask questions of friends who have published one or more books about their experience — both pros and cons.

What happened once I released my book?

I released The Move in 2016 at my first Women’s Expo in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a great experience primarily because I came to the realization that I didn’t know anything about promoting and selling a book.

Here are some key questions to consider when you are ready to release your book:

  1. What set’s your book apart from others in the same genre?
  2. Why should someone buy your book?
  3. How are you going to engage a person in a conversation to peak interest about your book and close the sale?

Here I was at a huge expo with a box of books and no plan. I thought people would just want to buy my book because it was me, “Dr. Patty”. Well, that wasn’t the case. Let me share with you some of the things I learned during this very important experience.

  1.  If you are going to sell your book at an event you must know the demographic of those registered or attending the event. I thought my demographic was middle-aged women 35 to 55 years old. However, when I got to the event, I learned was that most of the women ages 45 to 55 were already past the stages within my book. My demographic was women ages 35 to 40.
  2. Don’t rush your release. When you rush to get your book released you may not maximize all of your marketing resources. A marketing plan is necessary so that you can be sure to position your product to get in front of the right people. You also want to consider a social media plan and a profit plan.

 Is there anything I would have done differently on the release of this project?

In the next phase of my book promotion, I have actually worked on developing a marketing plan, social media plan and determined how much revenue I want to generate from book sales for the existing year. These tools will help me to reposition my product, monetize my message and establish benchmarks.

I hope these tips help you with publishing your book!

 Dr. Patricia “Patty” Fitzhugh is a speaker, entrepreneur, author, leadership consultant, television and radio host, women’s advocate, and visionary. But first and foremost, she’s a humanitarian who is committed to helping others find hope and offering her voice for human rights. For nearly 25 years, Dr. Fitzhugh has used personal life experiences and overcome challenges to inspire many to do the same. She is CEO of It’s A New Day, LLC, an organization she founded in 2013 now based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  The company is the media and brand marketing organization for Dr. Patty CARES, Dr. Patty LIVE, and Dr. Patty SPEAKS and produces a weekly Internet television show and blog talk radio show, Managing Mid-Life and Morning Coffee with Dr. Patty. This is her first book.

Contact her at 443-924-MLRC or by email at info@drpattycares.com.

Favorite Christmas Books

There’s nothing I like more than visiting a book store this time of year. It’s great anytime, but walking into the warmth of a cozy book store, with the smell of glue and paper in the air, all decorated for the holidays with gift ideas out on display, just helps get me in the holiday spirit.

So in that spirit, I decided to use this blog space to share some of my favorite Christmas books and stories. It’s a time of year when classics are as welcome and loved as new stories, and it never ceases to amaze me how every year new books are published with a Christmas theme. It just never gets old! Here are the ones that I have enjoyed reading on my own or with my children.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. I was introduced to this book just a few years ago, but it instantly became one of my favorites. Probably because I live just an hour or so away from Tweetsie Railroad and Grandfather Mountain, both of which are named in this book, but also because the story itself, about a little girl whose daddy has gone off to war, is so touching and relatable.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It was great when I was a kid, and it’s still great now. We’ve probably all struggled with questions about how to help out our neighbors who are less fortunate and how to include them in our own festivities, and this story does a great job of showing how much it means to include everyone.

The Gift of the Magi. This short story by O. Henry might just be one of his most famous, and it’s no wonder why. The sweet story of young newlyweds Della and Jim is both heart wrenching and heartwarming. You can read it in its entirety online, but I still would rather bring out my tattered book.

A Christmas Memory. Truman Capote’s short story is more autobiographical than fiction, and depicts a sweet Christmas season shared with family the made lasting memories.

On the Banks of Plum Creek. Many of Laura Ingals Wilder’s books in the Little House Series describe special Christmas memories and traditions, but this one always stuck in my head. They have a horrible blizzard, and are worried about how Santa Clause will come, but they all end up having a special Christmas together.

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!

This week marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it has come to be known. Whether you are embarking on writing a novel in one month, or you’re just using all of this talk of writing as inspiration, it’s a great time to get going on the writing projects you’ve been mulling over in your head. After all, we’re heading into fall and winter, where cold temperatures, snow, and rain will keep us indoors more than other times of the year.

Sometimes, all it takes is something like people talking about writing and NaNoWriMo to help get our creative juices flowing. But there are some other good ways to get started writing, or maybe help yourself over a writer’s block. Here are a few tips to get your fingers moving along the keyboard:

  1. Take a walk. Sure, it might seem counterproductive to leave your computer when you’re trying to write more, but research has shown that exercise actually boosts brain activity. It helps you focus and gives you the energy you need to come up with new ideas. Another plus, you never know what might inspire you while you’re out there walking!
  2. Try your hand at writing prompts. Sometimes coming up with an idea can be the hard part. Let someone else do that for you, and use your time practicing your writing! Here are a couple of websites I like:
    Writing Forward
    Language is a Virus
    The Write Prompts
  1. Keep a journal. Yes, it’s just more writing, but it’s a different sort of writing. Rather than trying to pencil-and-paper-writing-clipart-pencil-and-paper-clipart-egdvul-clipartdevelop characters or come up with dialogue, in a journal you just write your feelings. Many times, those journal entries are great fodder for future stories. And if not, they’re at least a way to get you in the writing practice more regularly.
  2. Read. Most of us don’t need permission to do this. If you’re a writer, most likely you’re also an avid reader. And reading other people’s writing is always a great form of inspiration.
  3. Turn off the phone and log off Facebook. Don’t you hate it when you’re in the middle of a great sentence and your text message alert beeps? Do you answer? Do you stop to read it? It’s like the bell for Pavlov’s dog, it’s hard to ignore it. After all, we’ve trained ourselves to think if someone is trying to contact us it’s important. And our phones aren’t our only distractions. When you’re writing and your mind starts to wander, it’s so easy to click over to Facebook and see what’s going on, or browse a few of your favorite blogs. If you really want to do yourself a favor, turn off all your distractions and focus just on your writing. You’ll feel so much better in the end.

Now that you’re inspired, check out our video on how to win NaNoWriMo. We want to see some great novels at the end of the month!

 

Stuck in Book Publishing Limbo

by Betsy Thorpe

Are you stuck in limbo? Book publishing limbo can happen at any time during the writing process. Currently, I’ve got three friends who are waiting…

  • One, under contract with a major publisher, is waiting to hear whether the head of her publishing house likes the book enough to give it a major investment with hardcover, publicity, and marketing dollars.
  • One friend is waiting to hear back from her agent about whether the changes she made for a specific publisher will be enough to get her a deal.
  • One friend is just resubmitting her book to agents after massive re-writes.

I’m in limbo too. My agent currently has a draft of the new opening to a book she’d already submitted to editors. It got nice rejections (yes, there are such things as “nice rejections”), but a few critiqued that it took me too long to get the story moving. So my super sharp agent and I had a story meeting, and we came up with (hopefully) a fun new beginning that will get the reader into the story far more quickly than the novel’s previous incarnation. But I’m in limbo until I hear from her whether I should proceed with what I’ve done, change some elements, or scrap it and try something else. So I wait until she has time in her schedule to look at my schedule.

Still others wait for edits from their editor, like me. Sometimes they have to wait a little while if their editor has a waiting list. Other times I have to wait to get a hold of their book, because clients need to budget their edit, and save up for it.

If we go further back into the process, some are in limbo waiting for the TIME to write their books. One client of mine knew she was having foot surgery later this year and is convinced that that time lying around will force her to spend time on her book. My friend Holly and I, who also angie-pisel-21-c-robin-parish-photographyrecently had foot surgeries, think she will be so sleepy on her pain medication that she will not be able to concentrate enough to get her work done. However, one of the authors we met at Bibliofeast, Angela Pisel, author of With Love from the Inside, actually did write her debut novel when she was recuperating from breaking her ankle, so she has proved us wrong.

cover150x250Others are waiting for the big idea to strike. They know they want to write a book, but what should it be? For those who are in this part of limbo, I highly recommend a book called Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is all about inspiration. (Spoiler alert – big ideas don’t come 99% of the time unless you’re sitting at the desk, already writing.)

How do you best get out of limbo? In all cases: Write. I’m writing this blog. My friends in the scenarios above are thinking and writing their next books while their current books are under submission. The authors who are waiting for their edits should be writing their next book. Stephen King wrote in On Writing, my favorite book of writing advice that you should send out your book to agents and editors (and I’m paraphrasing here, since I can’t find the exact quote) only when you are so invested in your new book idea that you think it’s the most exciting and best thing you’ve ever done, and so you could care less whether or not the old book sells because you’re so convinced of this new book’s merits.
[Update: As I finish up this piece, I got good news. My agent likes my new start. Full steam ahead on the rewrite. Limbo no more – at least, until the next time I turn something in.]

 

Why I Write by Peter Golden

Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, historian, and novelist. His new book, Wherever There Is Light by Atria Books, delves into the little known history of the rescue of German Jews from the Nazis by traditionally African-American colleges. The book is described as a “love story that’s epic and truly felt”. Peter and nine critically acclaimed authors were featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Mon., Oct. 17.

golden  Time moves, and I find myself, frequently against my will, moving right along with it. I’m a different husband than I used to be, a different father, and a different writer. Where my family is concerned, I’m different because in so many ways, large and small, what your loved ones need from you changes with the passing years. Yet I’m a different writer because the reasons I write have shifted, leaving me to marvel at how naive I once was and, I’m happy to say, how dedicated I have remained to the craft.

As a young teenager, long before I began writing seriously, it occurred to me that I had only one life and writing would enable me to enter worlds that were closed off to me—from pitching in a World Series at Yankee Stadium to residing in eighteenth-century Williamsburg or serving as your newly elected president.

By the end of college, I was familiar with Henry David Thoreau’s observation that most people wind up mired in quiet desperation, and since I was philosophically opposed to sustained misery, I started writing on a daily schedule. Thanks to the enchanting gift the young possess for self-deception, I soon convinced myself that writing was an effective method for bending reality in my preferred direction. Absolutely ridiculous, I know. And in my case, absolutely true.

Less than ten years later, I was earning a living by writing, and I knew that I was lucky to go to an office in my own house and pay my bills by doing work I enjoyed. Still, money, like love, is usually something you think about only if you don’t have enough, and although by my thirties I felt relatively secure in my career, on occasion I asked myself why I got up every morning to face a blank page.

Honestly, I’m not sure I had a good answer to that question back then.

Now, after writing almost every day of my life for over thirty-five years, here is what I discovered: nothing, other than the joys of family and friends, gives me more pleasure than writing a sentence that informs me emotionally or intellectually. Of course, I hope others are touched or informed by that sentence. But if not, at least I tried.

And I wrote the sentence.

Peter Golden was born in Newark, New Jersey and grew up in the suburbs of South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey, where he graduated from Columbia High School. He attended Ohio University for two years then transferred to SUNY Albany, graduating with a BA in Philosophy. He lives in Guilderland, New York, with his wife, a communication professor at University at Albany.

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to priscillagoudreausantos@gmail.com with the subject line “Guest Post”.

 

From the Cupboard by Susan Crawford

This guest post is written by Susan Crawford, author of The Pocket Wife and The Other Widow by Morrow-Harper Collins. She and nine critically acclaimed authors will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Mon., Oct. 17.

susan-crawford-9780062362889_1_a0496Readers occasionally ask me where I get the ideas for my books. “Well,” I say, “there was this article in the newspaper equating homicides with mental illness,” or, “There’s so much more to PTSD than soldiers coming back from war,” or, “I thought it would be challenging to write a sympathetic ‘other woman.’” And these are reasons for writing what I write. They are, at least, the origins, the seeds. What sprouts from them though, the stories, the characters that populate the living rooms, the subways, the streets, and ultimately the pages of my books, are not as easy to explain. In a way, they’re far less rational.

They live inside my head. Like dreams or words I’ve overheard, they dance onto the page. I unlock a cupboard and the characters spill out. With a little nudge they grow and blossom. They invent themselves, become the people that will talk and love and die and kill for the next year of my life, the next three hundred pages. The voices of dead fathers whisper in their ears or turn their hearts to stone. A pinkish sky, a certain smell, a sound, can snatch them from their lives and set them down beside a beach decades before or underneath a blanket from the Andes in a winter room with dirty glass, a broken wall.

For me, the characters make the plot work. They should grab readers by the hand and spirit them away – to a party, down an icy street at midnight, to a lover’s rented room – toward a happy ending, toward redemption, hope, or straight into a wall. Whether they are sunny or demonic, honest or deceptive, they must entice the reader to be right there with them – missing phone calls, burning dinners, losing sleep – following with loyalty and expectation, waiting for motives to come to light, for actions to jar, to change events, to make a difference, to enlighten and inspire. The characters can be right or wrong, good or not so good, as long as they’re believable, as long as they can touch the reader in some way.

book-jacket-the-other-widowMaybe they’re composites, bits and pieces of people I’ve known, or seen or heard or been.  Or maybe they’re forgotten words or incidents I’ve tucked away to look at later, to sort through and analyze, to try to make sense of the world. Maybe that’s what we all are underneath, behind our flesh and tears and smiles – composites of our pasts, of those we loved, or touched, or couldn’t quite, of those we lost. Maybe we’re like antennae shifting through space, picking up frequencies, picking up stories, other places, other times, other rooms. Maybe I am really just a scribe.

I don’t write about real people. I write fiction. But I wonder sometimes if the two are all that different – if their fragments and details fall together in a certain way to make a character in fiction rather than my next-door neighbor or my friend from high school. I’ve read that there are only seven basic stories told in countless ways – the human condition, thrown down like cards to land in myriad configurations – Dorrie from The Other Widow, different from the woman in the book I’m writing now because she grew up in a different place, a different situation. Just as we are molded by circumstance and chance, by where we landed and began and where we go from there, the characters fall from their cupboards, brush themselves off, and march onto the page.

Susan grew up in Miami, Florida. She later moved to New York City and then to Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three amazing daughters and to teach in various adult education settings. A member of The Atlanta Writers Club and The Village Writers, Susan works for the Department of Technical and Adult Education and is a member of her local planning commission. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband and a trio of rescue cats, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

More about Susan:  wwwsusancrawfordnovelist.com, Twitter: crawfordsusanh, Facebook: Susan Crawford Author

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to priscillagoudreausantos@gmail.com with the subject line “Guest Post”. 

 

The Perils of Too Much Self by Ashley Mace Havird

This guest post is written by Ashley Mace Havird, author of debut novel, Lightningstruck, by Mercer University Press. She and nine critically acclaimed authors will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Oct. 17.

head-shot-ashley-havirdI grew up on a South Carolina tobacco farm from the mid-1950s until the early 1970s. As the main character, eleven-year-old Etta, says in Lightningstruck: “The entire year seemed like a patchwork quilt whose pattern told the story of tobacco.” Growing tobacco was like a ballet, a symphony whose final movement reached a crescendo in the end-of-season market with its “toasty smells of cured tobacco, the taste of boiled peanuts, the singsong speed-talk of the auctioneer.” The economy of the area depended on farming, and tobacco was the cash crop. During the market days, in fact, people would joke that the entire town of Mullins, with its enormous warehouses, “smelled like money.” I took for granted, as all children do, that this world would last forever.

I left home for college and never returned for good, but I visited my family often—still do. With the demise of the domestic tobacco industry accelerating in the late 1970s and early ’80s, my father and brother, like so many other lifelong farmers, gradually gave it up. The landscape of the area, its wooden stick barns already having given way to aluminum “bulk” barns, and sophisticated machines having replaced much of the manual labor—this landscape changed even more dramatically. The vast fields of green leaf vanished, and the economies of rural communities collapsed. The landscape of my memory vanished and took its people with it.

Around fifteen years ago, I was a fiction-writer-turned-poet. But I wanted to recreate this lost world in a longer form than poems afforded. So, I jumped in with what I believed was a memoir. But in the end, my life was interesting only to me. The interest, I discovered after much fumbling, lay not so much in my personal story but in the fabric of the times, the radical changes occurring on so many levels. There was the good, the bad, and the ugly of the tobacco industry, with its hierarchy of wealthy and health-problem-denying industry leaders down to laborers who worked from “can’t see to can’t see.” There were the tensions of the Civil Rights Movement, which was finding its way even into our closed-in part of the South. The Vietnam War was ramping up. All of this occurring during a girl’s coming of age, which included painful discoveries about herself and family and society—troubles that, when purely my own, were not particularly interesting, although they could be if I could only exaggerate …These things drew me towards the novel, towards inventing. I began to see that this was the only way I could explore the larger truth I was after. Besides, my precious memoir was flat-out boring.

I had major problems to solve. What to do about self-indulgent scenes and a plot that was loose at best? The horse, which became the main source of tension in Lightningstruck, was a minor character. The story’s all-important “trouble” was vague, ill-defined.

Nothing to do, of course, but to begin the slaughter: I had to kill many darlings, nearly all of them, and create brand new ones. Without new characters, such as the eccentric civil rights activist, Miss Cass, and the young archaeologist, Dr. Raintree, the book would have been stuck like an insect in amber. I shifted the story into third person to further detach my Self from Etta, and I allowed Etta’s problems to become far more exciting than mine ever were. I was able to keep my central characters, unlocking them from their chains to actual people, and I “grew” the horse, Troy, until he haunted me and became for Etta the major antagonist he had to be.

The tearing down, rethinking, and rebuilding, added years to the novel’s progress. It was only the curiosity and passion I had for the world I was bringing back, the love for my characters, and my own stubbornness that made the final draft—once again in first person—possible. Would I have been able to complete the book if I hadn’t put myself through all these contortions? I have no idea. I’d certainly have saved myself grief and time if I’d identified the genre to begin with.

Still, there is no question but that the autobiographical elements enrich Lightningstruck. Beyond the story of Etta’s coming of age by way of a treasure-hunt with a lightning-scarred horse, the book is an elegy to a past world, an homage to people I knew and loved. It is a sort of archaeological exploration of what it means to dig for truth, beneath tobacco fields and down through layers into the past—a truth that, when found, is as much mine, and I hope the reader’s truth, as it is Etta’s.

Ashley Mace Havird grew up on a tobacco farm in South Carolina. She has published three collections of poems, including THE GARDEN OF THE FUGITIVES (2014), which won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her poems and stories have appeared in many journals, including Shenandoah, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. Lightningstruck, winner of the 2015 Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction, is her first novel.

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to priscillagoudreausantos@gmail.com with the subject line “Guest Post”. 

 

In Her Own Words by Angela Pisel

Meet author Angela Pisel: This guest post is written by Angela Pisel author of debut novel, With Love from the Inside, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. She and nine critically acclaimed authors will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Oct. 17.angie-pisel-21-c-robin-parish-photography

We hear about them more often than we should. After fifteen, twenty, and sometimes even thirty years, a horrific mistake is made right. Camera crews now capturing the wrongly convicted ones, with their overgrown, more-gray-than-not hair and hesitant feet, stepping out into the sunshine. Their heavy eyes, once again meeting freedom, while being introduced to babies they’d never met, from children they didn’t see grow up.

In late 2011, I watched the news coverage of a man who’d spent twenty-five years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. I stared at him while he wrapped his frail, spindly arms around those he’d thought he’d never be able to touch again. I could almost hear his erratically pumping heart struggling to balance all that had been taken from him with the promise of what was to come.

I dared to ask myself the question I imagine most of us would ask: What if that were me?

Could I have endured?

Could I have forgiven?

Could I move on after so much was taken away from me?

cover-photo-with-love-from-the-insideIn 2012, I began to study women on death row. I read everything I could find about them online and in the library. I wrote 57 of them letters, asking questions about how they passed the time and what their first thoughts were when they woke up in the morning. One woman sent me her picture. She was average-enough looking that she could have worked beside me at the seventh-grade bake sale, carrying on conversations about fundraisers and the high price of school calculators. Would these women, if given the right circumstances— a sober mother to tuck them in at night, a father who kept his hands to himself—now be working in a cubicle someplace, instead of living in a cage with all the freedom afforded to a rabid animal? Or would they have made the same decisions, even with two appropriately affectionate parents—their personalities and their fates predetermined, so to speak? How did these women end up with an expiration date?

I couldn’t help but wonder about their children. What it’s like spending birthdays, holidays, and first days of school separated from their incarcerated mom or dad? Who do they turn to when they have no one to sit with at lunch, or when a stranger knocks on their front door?

Could they endure?

Could they forgive?

Could they move on after so much was taken away from them?

These questions birthed my debut novel, With Love From the Inside. It’s the story of a mother on death row and a daughter left to navigate growing up without her. Both women desperately struggle to figure out how they ended up where they did, and if they will ever find truth and forgiveness.

While writing this story, I interviewed a woman from North Carolina whose father had been in and out of prison for her entire childhood. Most of her weekends, she told me, were spent driving up to three hours with her mom to sit in a dirty visitation room, hoping to hear her daddy say he was proud of her. At the age of forty-one, she finally heard him say “I love you” for the first time. He said those words, handcuffed in a courtroom, right after the judge sentenced him to live his final days in prison. He died of a heart attack shortly afterward.

She promised herself she’d never set foot in another prison, but that wasn’t what happened. God had other plans, she told me. This year alone, she will spend 36 weekends behind locked doors with an organization she founded called Forgiven Ministry (forgivenministry.org), whose mission is to reconnect incarcerated parents with their children. She will teach moms how to tell their kids “This is not your fault” and help dads learn how to say “I’m sorry.” She’s hoping to break the cycle of recidivism, and sometimes she will let me tag along.

A quick Google search will tell you that my new friend’s childhood was not that uncommon: 2.7 million American children are growing up with a mom or dad behind bars. That’s a lot of kids, one in twenty-eight to be more exact, trying to endure, trying to forgive, trying to move on after so much was taken from them….

Angela Pisel was born in the Midwest but has set up homes across the United States since marrying an Army physician. As a therapist and life coach, she has taken a special interest in mentoring women throughout various transitions in their lives. She decided to write her first novel after her obsession with TV trials led her to research women on death row. She didn’t find what she thought she’d find—how people end up where they end up continues to mesmerize her. Angela volunteers with an organization in North Carolina (forgivenministry.org) that seeks to break the cycle of recidivism by promoting healthy relationships between children and their incarcerated parent.

Want to write a guest post for All About the Authors? We welcome guest posts from authors and those who are experts in the book industry. What is your writing process? Where are you in your publishing journey and what advice do you have? Have you successfully marketed your book and do you have tips to share? All About the Authors wants to hear from you! If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to All About the Authors, please send your information and topic idea to allabouttheauthors@gmail.com or priscillagoudreausantos@gmail.com with the subject line “Guest Post”. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet novelist Julia Franks author of Over the Plain Houses

This guest post is written by Julia Franks whose debut novel, Over the Plain Houses, Hub City Press, is a finalist for the 2016 Crook’s Corner Prize for Debut Fiction, the winner to be announced in January. You can meet Julia in person at the Women’s National Book Association – Charlotte’s 7th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Oct. 17.

For me, novels come from questions. You have some question or questions that you can’t stop thinking about, can’t stop worrying over. So you start writing, and you don’t know where the questions are going to take you. I live in the Bible Belt sfranksauthorphoto_credit_holly_sasnetto one of those questions has always been, “How does a person who believes the Bible is literal truth construct a world view around that?”

But the novel really started percolating in my head in 2008. That summer a man walked into my parents’ church in Tennessee and started shooting, killing two people immediately and injuring several others. Like a lot of people, I became fixated on the “Why?” In this case, the church was Unitarian/ Universalist, and the shooter had written a kind of manifesto about his own ideology. But then it came out later that his wife had left him, and that she’d become a member of the UU church. I thought a lot about that. People are so complicated, really, and so fragile.

That same year my (then) husband and I bought an abandoned farm in the mountains north of Asheville. There was a house on the property, an old cabin built in 1865, with a springhouse and a privy nearby, but no one had lived there in four decades. The strange thing about it was that it was still full of the residents’ possessions: clothes in the dresser, boots in the closet, hundreds of jars of canned food. And the people who had lived there had clearly been hoarders of a sort. Some of it was boxes of old toys and documents and letters and diaries, hundreds of jars of canned food. But they’d also saved a lot from the natural world: hornet nests, animal skins, mammal skulls and skeletons, calcified eggs. The little boy’s room had a collection of snakeskins pinned to the wall.over-the-plain-houses-9781938235214_583fe

Some of it clearly needed to go back to the family, so we contacted the son of the previous owners—I’ll call him Mr. M.—who was in his late eighties by then. He had been the little boy who’d collected the snakeskins. We brought him all the diaries and letters, and he seemed delighted to have them. We spent the rest of the day with him and his wife, listening to stories. (Unfortunately the way it’s done in this part of the world is that, in a group of two couples, the man will talk to the other man, while the hostess tries to engage the woman. So here’s this lovely lady taking me to the kitchen to show me her method for canning pears, and the whole time I’m straining to hear the stories the old man is telling my husband in the other room about his childhood.)

Meanwhile, back in town, the locals had heard that we’d bought the old homestead, and they started telling us stories too. Mr. M’s parents were a fire and brimstone preacher and his nature-loving wife. He loved God, and she loved the woods, but they were sort of famous for their eccentricities and their attempt to live an older lifestyle right into the 20th century. (Like other mountain women, Mrs. M. wore a splint bonnet right into the 1970s). And one guy was still mad about the sermons. Forty years later he still resented the fact that Mr. M. called out his wife and then came over to eat her fried chicken dinner afterward. But everyone said the same thing about Mrs. M.: “That woman was a saint.”

Anyway, that was my other big question. How does a woman construct her own identity when she’s married to such a charismatic and outspoken community leader? Mrs. M. saved things and labelled them, as in, “This is the hat I wore to Celia’s graduation,” Or “Calvin’s baby blanket.” And we found hundreds of jelly jars with salvaged objects in them. She constructed her own world of saved objects. Whether that was enough or not, I guess we won’t ever know.

Mr. M. did die well in advance of her, and she lived a long time on that farm by herself, until her grandsons took her to live in a facility. I’ve always wondered if she hated leaving her woods behind, and all the things she’d saved over the years, her world.

Over the Plain Houses is a story of a couple much like this one, living in Western North Carolina in the 1930s, when they were young, and they didn’t know yet that the modern world was about to crash in upon them.

With roots in the Appalachian Mountains, Julia has spent years kayaking the rivers and creeks of Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia. She lives in Atlanta where she teaches literature and runs loosecannon.com, a web service that fosters free-choice reading in the classroom.

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