Dear Dream . . .

From “Blogging 101,” Day Four’s assignment:

Publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element* in it.

So that audience would be . . . my dream agent, who may at this very moment be checking out my website to see who this new voice is—the one whose manuscript she requested three months ago, and she hasn’t had time to read it yet, but she just pulled it from the slush pile yesterday afternoon, and she stayed up all night reading and finished it at four this morning, and then she couldn’t get to sleep, couldn’t wait to pick up the phone–what time will Gerry be awake, Central Time? Is 7:00 too early to call?–and give me the news I’ve been waiting breathlessly for:

Yes, she loves my historical novel! Yes, she wants to represent me! Yes, she already has an editor in mind who’ll love the book as much as she does and will be fabulous to work with! Yes, she anticipates a six-figure advance.

Isn’t that everybody’s dream?

Just in case you’re cruising blogs right now, Dream Agent of Mine, this is for you:

About the book

processblogphoto2
Process / G. Wilson

Dear _____________:

Spirit Lamp, a literary historical novel set in the harsh landscape of rural Mississippi around the time of World War I, is the story of Leona Pinson, a sixteen-year-old white girl who gives birth to an illegitimate son. A feisty girl, Leona refuses to name the child’s father and lives with her shame. An elderly black sharecropper, Luther Biggs, is Leona’s only ally against her troubled brother, Raymond. As Luther’s strength fails and Raymond’s cruelty escalates, the survival of Leona and her son depends on her courage and cunning. When the child’s father, Walker Broom, returns after the war, the deception that has kept Leona and Walker apart unravels. Ultimately, Leona faces her brother alone, a confrontation that leads to his death and freedom for Leona and Luther.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

In the early, dark hours of the morning, Leona Pinson’s aunt perched like a doll in the straight chair near Leona’s bed, her short legs dangling. Sometime yesterday, Aunt Sally Pinson had put the sharpest knife they owned under Leona’s bedstead.

“To cut the pain,” she’d said. “An ax blade would do better.”

That knife was not helping Leona much.

When she cried out, her aunt slid down off the chair and went to the bureau where the basin was. She used a milking stool as a step, wrung out a cloth with her stubby fingers, came back to the bed, and hoisted herself up. She started to bathe Leona’s face, but Leona covered her eyes with her hands and turned away. She didn’t want to see Sally’s large head and jutting chin, her bulging eyes, her stunted arms and legs. What if her own baby were born like that as a punishment?

About the author

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At Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS

A seventh-generation Mississippian, I was born in the hill country I write about in Spirit Lamp. The place and the characters ring true for me. I grew up in the household with my maternal grandmother, a terrific storyteller whose tale of her father’s murder figures in the novel.

I sometimes call myself a late-blooming author. I raised my kids as a single mom, taught English and writing to high school students for more than twenty years, wrote late at night in little scraps of time I could steal. I retired to do what I’d always wanted to do–write fiction.

Now I have a collection of short stories to show for it–Crosscurrents and Other Stories–and last year, I was a Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellow. I’ve published stories in some good places. “Mating,” a short story, won the Prime Number/Press 53 Short Story Award in 2014. I’m working on another book, a contemporary novel this time, that nags and niggles away at me, keeping me awake nights, with a main character who will not let me go.

I write because I love to do it. Well, that’s not quite true: sometimes I hate it, but I can’t not do it. Maybe I should be satisfied with writing good short stories, keeping up this blog, taking a great workshop now and then, publishing some.

But you know, I want the dream.

So Dream Agent, if you’re out there–and I know you are–how about giving me that call? I’m here. I’ll answer. I’ll work hard. I’ll give you the best book I possibly can.

Sincerely,

Gerry Wilson

phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

*The “new elements” are the epistolary style and, well, a little humor!

Challenge: Are you searching for an agent? Do you have any tips you would like to share here?

 

 

It’s Official!

The contract is signed! The short story collection has a new title–Crosscurrents and Other Stories–and a publication date: November 1!

Champagne flutes with strawberries Courtesy of m. bartosch www.freedigitalphotos.net
Champagne flutes with strawberries
Courtesy of m. bartosch
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

So the whirlwind begins. I’ll be working with Kevin Watson, the fabulous editor at Press 53. I’ll  be acquiring blurbs, proofreading, helping to decide on cover art and layout design, and  fighting off bouts of anxiety (will the book sell three copies, or maybe thirty? Will anybody actually read it?)

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to go the traditional publishing route, which leads to lots and lots of submissions, re-writes, long waits, rejections, more re-writes, and more submissions and rejections. But this round (I entered the collection in Press 53’s short fiction contest where it was a runner-up), something clicked. Kevin, God bless him, gets these stories. I’m so proud to be part of the Press 53 family of authors.

So let’s raise a glass, friends and fellow writers, in celebration of this one small thing. A book. Of stories. And I’m going to be able to hold it in my hands.

Did somebody say launch party? I certainly hope so. Complete with bubbly. Come on down to Jackson and join us in the fall. I’ll let you know when!

The Writing Process Blog Tour Stops Here

Welcome to the Writing Process Blog Tour! My Wordsmith Studio writer-friend J. Lynn Sheridan invited me to participate. J.Lynn is a poet (one with a sense of humor, I might add).

Blog Tour
Blog Tour

The blog tour moves forward, but if you haven’t already, you should check out J. Lynn’s Blog Tour Stop and another recent post, “Who Needs Poetry? Maybe Not You,” at her Writing on the Sun blog.

Now, on to the topic for this blog tour: Writing Process. The challenge is to answer three questions about my work:

What am I working on?

Several things at once.

I just returned from a week in Denver at The Lighthouse Writers Workshop, a terrific community of writers that sponsors a summer Lit Fest—two weeks jam-packed with craft seminars, workshops, and readings. (Look for a separate post about my Lighthouse experience soon.) This week, I’ve been revising the story I submitted to Antonya Nelson’s fiction workshop. Besides that revision, the novel start I’ve struggled with for the last year  keeps rearing its unruly head and demanding my attention. I think I may be on to something there, at last, in part because of some insights I had in Denver.

There are a couple of new story ideas floating around, too. I’m keeping a notebook beside the bed these nights in case some inspiration strikes (as it did, briefly, last night). I’m also looking for dreams that might be significant.

So see? The writing and the learning are like dominoes: one idea begets another.

Why do I write what I do?

Ah, that’s an interesting question.

I started out writing poems. Mostly bad poems, I’m afraid. The turn to fiction came in a writing teachers’ workshop at Bard College some years ago where I was required to write a short story. That little story came so easily (I wish they all did!), and I fell in love with the form. So mostly, I’m a short story writer. My husband is responsible for the turn to novels. He kept telling me I could write a novel, and I kept protesting that I couldn’t. Finally, I think the challenge got to me, and I took it on. “A novel is just a long story,” he kept reminding me. That’s true, but there’s a lot more to novel writing than that. I find novel-writing challenging and hair-pulling hard, but I’m hooked, and I’ll keep at it.

As for subject matter: stories can come from anywhere. Many of mine stem from autobiographical material, but they also arise out of observation: a person in a restaurant or on the street, another person’s trauma or desire or fear can provide the spark.

How does my writing process work?

Process / G. Wilson
Process / G. Wilson

I wish I could tell you that I have this immaculate way of doing things, that I rise at five every morning and write for two hours before I have my oatmeal. Or I write eight hours a day. I’m retired, after all; I should be able to do that, right?

I’m afraid that’s not the case. I’m as likely to sit with my laptop in front of the TV (with the TV on; yes, I know that’s terrible, but I do it sometimes) as I am to go off by myself. I like to write with music in the background, especially if I find music that fits the tone of what I’m working on. I write notes by hand when I’m just playing around, toying with ideas, and then I tend to write long, messy first drafts and revise, revise, revise.

I’m indebted to a few good and faithful readers who keep me honest (and often humble).

I read–mostly fiction but also poetry, memoir, and other nonfiction.

I research. A lot. It seems most stories require some special knowledge or background to flesh out their worlds with specific details. I like that about the process; I’m always, always learning.

I do wish I were more disciplined. That’s a worthwhile goal.

The tour moves on!

I’ve asked the following writers to come aboard the tour. Do hop over and see what they’re working on and what wisdom they have to share:

Marsha Blevins
Marsha Blevins

Marsha Blevins lives in WV with her boyfriend and four fur-children. After long hours of reports and complaints at her “day job,” she unwinds in front of the keyboard writing short stories, novels, or just random rants. After being published in her college literary magazine in the late 1990′s, she took a nearly 15 year break from the pressures that type of fame brought into her life. Better able to cope with being in the spotlight now, she is back . . . and better than ever! Marsha’s blog: Marble’s Words.

Jane Ann McLachlan
Jane Ann McLachlan

Jane Ann McLachlan taught writing and professional ethics at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario, before she took an early leave to write full-time. She has published two college textbooks on professional ethics through Pearson Education, a short story collection titled Connections, and a science fiction novel titled Walls of Wind. She has written two
other books which are on offer with her agent, Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency in New York, is currently editing her science fiction YA novel, The Malemese Diamond, and researching for her next historical fiction novel. Visit her at http://www.jamclachlan.net or at http://www.janeannmclachlan.com.

 

June Bourgo
June Bourgo

Born and raised in Montreal, June Bourgo lives in the beautiful BC interior surrounded by ranch lands. Her debut novel Winter’s Captive has been picked up by Fountain Blue Publishing for re-release with a new cover, to be followed by Chasing Georgia, Book 2 of The Georgia Series. Information about publishing dates and book availability is forthcoming. June is currently working on A Missing Thread, Book 3 of The Georgia Series. To learn more about June and her work, visit her blog, Losing Cinderella.