All About the Authors

Helping edit, publish, and market your book.

Category: Author

A Story of Two Fires

    By  Jim Minick

             The novel Fire Is Your Water started out as nonfiction. Two fires struck my family in this one small area of Pennsylvania where I grew up, and though I tried, I couldn’t figure out how to make a larger book about these, especially because one fire occurred before I was born. So it took me five years of wandering in the wilderness of words to understand fiction would allow me to combine these stories if I could figure out how.

Part of that “how” came by collapsing four generations of people into two generations, and thirty years of stories condensed to three months. The larger part of the “how,” though, was discovering the connecting thread, which eventually became this: what happens to a faith healer when she loses her ability to heal? That became the driving question.

Ada Franklin, the main character in Fire Is Your Water, is based on my great-grandmother, Ida Franklin Minick, who was a faith healer or powwow doctor in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. She could remove warts, stop blood, and take out fire, like Ada in the novel. And like Ada, she entered a burning barn with a relative, who was severely burned in the process. Afterward, my great-grandmother was not the one who healed my grandmother’s hands—another person did. So that got me thinking about why and what happens if faith is lost. I’m pretty sure that did not happen with Ida, but it opened a door for me.

My first memory is sitting on my great-grandmother’s lap, but then Ida died when I was four. So I wish I had known her better, and in a way, this novel helped me imagine a little of her life, like what it was like to work on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the 1950s, or to heal an epileptic, or even, to heal a bleeding cow by saying a chant through the phone. All of these are family stories I was able to weave into the novel to honor these people and this place.

I worked on this novel, off and on, for fifteen years. Attention got pulled to other projects, so in that time span, I wrote four other books, plus taught full-time. At some deeper level, I think I knew I wasn’t ready yet to write this book, so I had to learn my way in, through other genres, and then through extensive reading and studying of novels I admired, like Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, and Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men.

One of the great risks I took with this book is with the character of Cicero, a raven who learns to read and talk. Most of Fire Is Your Water is in third-person point-of-view, but Cicero’s chapters are in first-bird’s POV, and as, one reviewer commented on the bird’s swearing, he is “foul-beaked.” Cicero and the idea of a talking bird came much later, maybe two-thirds of the way into the writing. I was taking a fiction workshop with Darnell Arnoult (an excellent teacher and writer), and I knew the other main character, a man named Will Burk, loved birds, so I kept playing with that idea, trying to figure out how to develop that passion of his. Then I remembered reading an essay about a person growing up with a talking crow as a pet, and that, along with encouragement to just experiment, let me walk through that door of magic realism to find Cicero there waiting to chew my ear off, literally.

And yes, many birds, especially “smarter” species like ravens and crows, can learn words. I collected several stories from fellow birders about such. One ornithology professor told of a raven tamed in grad school. The bird loved to say, “Nevermore,” and he loved to drink whiskey. When he got too tipsy, he’d just repeat, “Never, never, never….”

When Cicero heard this, he wanted to file an animal abuse report until he realized that it all happened decades ago.

I’ll end with one of Cicero’s favorite quotes, from Eubie Blake: “Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind—listen to the birds. And don’t hate nobody.”

Jim Minick is the author of five books, including Fire Is Your Water, a debut novel released this spring. His memoir, The Blueberry Years, won of the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association. His honors include the Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian Writing, and the Fred Chappell Fellowship at University of North Carolina-Greensboro. His work has appeared in many publications including Poets & Writers, Oxford American, Shenandoah, Orion, San Francisco Chronicle, Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Conversations with Wendell Berry, Appalachian Journal, and The Sun. Currently, he is Assistant Professor at Augusta University and Core Faculty in Converse College’s low-residency MFA program.

Jim and his new book will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 8th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Monday, Oct. 16. Tickets are available at http://wnba-charlotte.org/wnba/calendar/bibliofeast-tickets/ (credit card) or at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, 704-525-9239 (cash or check).

Saying Yes to Yourself

By Caitlin Hamilton Summie

We all have demands on our time that make it hard to fit in our creative writing: jobs, possibly parenthood, possibly caring for parents, school work, yard work, cleaning. The list goes on. Indeed, it can go on forever, pushing one’s writing down to the end of the list.

Being busy nowadays seems like a virtue. Being busy also makes you feel there is a good reason you are not writing—there are so many other To Dos that are so much more important.

But are they?

As I have grown older, I’ve learned the power of the word “no.” No, I am not available for that committee, though thanks so much for thinking of me. No, thank you, I can’t come for that event, but I sure appreciate the invitation.

And a perennially tough one for me: no, my house is not going to be perfectly clean. (If you ever visit, don’t look too closely!)

But saying no more often didn’t quite get me to finding my “yes” – to more writing time — like I thought it would.

This isn’t to say that I wasn’t writing. I was. On a lunch hour. Late at night. Weekends. I believed that pursuing my writing at all felt like I was saying “yes” to myself.

But I wasn’t, not really.

I discovered my “yes” only recently, as I scanned a long morning To Do list. I had myself and my writing at the very bottom of the list, when and if time allowed. And suddenly, I saw it: I was willing to carve out time to write and to send stories off, or edit one of my pieces, or this or that when everything else was done. But I didn’t ever prioritize my writing.

No, I felt myself say, staring at the list. I erased myself from the bottom and penciled myself in at the top.

Yes, I thought, I will do something for myself first today. It might be only from 8-8:15 a.m. But I am going to do it. Some days, I am going to prioritize my writing career.

And I am.

Caitlin Hamilton Summie and her new book, To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts, published by Fomite Press, will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 8th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Monday, Oct. 16. Caitlin lives in Knoxville, TN and is also a book industry marketing and publicity consultant. Tickets are available at http://wnba-charlotte.org/wnba/calendar/bibliofeast-tickets/ (credit card) or at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, 704-525-9239 (cash or check).

Sebastian Matthews pens ‘memoir of poems’

By Sebastian Matthews

Early in the process of writing Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision, I began to see the book as “a memoir in poems.” A hybrid collection, Beginner’s Guide consists of short lyric poems, prose poems, and short prose pieces in the personal essay vein. Intertwining these three forms, I tell the story of the head-on collision that nearly killed my family, then the aftershocks of recovery we were by necessity engaged in for the next few years.

I started writing the first poems while still in the ICU. I had to do something to combat the fear, worry and fatigue that had overcome me. A month or so later, still in a wheelchair, learning to walk again, I found myself unable to write directly about the traumatic experience. I started penning these strange “Dear Virgo” poems, which were all self-loathing, sarcastic faux horoscopes narrated by an angel/devil figure floating above me and providing unwanted commentary. Later, a few months into the recovery, I began to write about the event moment to moment, trying to capture the scene as it played out. Eventually, it felt easier–and more powerful–to write about the experience in the essay form. Then I returned to a set of prose poems exploring themes of depression, trauma and PTSD.

The book is structured as a set of concentric circles. Imagine a stone thrown into a pond–the accident itself–and then imagine the circles expanding out to fill the body of water. I tried to organize the collection in such a way that the reader would experience the event and its aftermath in different ways—moment to moment, day by day, month by month, then year by year. The book ends with my family beginning to move fully into a normal, post-accident life.

My wife, Ali, and my son, Avery, are characters in this story, and within it they move through their own stages of growth. Avery was 8-years-old when the accident occurred; he walked from the car unharmed. But his parents came out two weeks later both in wheelchairs. His dad no longer could shoot hoops; his mom no longer had the energy to help with homework at night. Over time, Avery discovered a way to bring me back into his childhood world. Using our trampoline as an arena, Avery began to “train” me by playing a game we later dubbed “Butterfingers.” By throwing a ball back and forth over the trampoline’s net, father and son re-ignited an old routine of play. Within a few months, out of the wheelchair, wobbly on my feet, I was moving my aching feet, shifting my stiff body left then right, forward and back. Later, I took this training to the basketball gym and to the weight room.

I hope in writing Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision that I can share with readers the ways that one can grow and learn from such a catastrophe. When one faces such crisis, when one gets challenged at so many levels at once, something new and dynamic arises. You shed old selves and step into new ones.

The book is dedicated to all our friends, family and neighbors who helped us through the ordeal. It’s fitting, for their encompassing communities allowed us, by encouraging us, to heal.

 

Sebastian Matthews and his new book, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-On Collision published by Red Hen Press, will be featured at the Women’s National Book Association Charlotte’s 8th Annual “BIBLIOFEAST” Book & Author Dinner on Monday, Oct. 16. Sebastian lives in Asheville and teaches writing at Warren Wilson College. Tickets are available at http://wnba-charlotte.org/wnba/calendar/bibliofeast-tickets/ (credit card) or at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, 704-525-9239 (cash or check).

 

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.

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”.