Brooklyn Book Festival 2013- getting there

Author sign BBF

This was my first year participating in the Brooklyn Book Festival. Last year at the end of September I was feeling prickly that I didn’t have an editor yet. I certainly didn’t have a publisher. There was that brief luncheon in SoHo with an agent who assured me that she was interested in my work. After hearing me read one Sunday afternoon she invited me out and we chatted and got along famously. She asked me to forward my manuscript to her once more as somehow my manuscript was now a missing document in her files. I did. I never heard from her again.

A month later another agent who admitted she sat on the fence about my freshly revised manuscript decided that the project wasn’t for her. As writers we know that time-worn excuse, “I want whoever takes your project on to love it! As you do.” I agree but simply put rejection hurts.

A couple of days later, ending October, Aignos Publishing Managing Editor-In-Chief, Jonathan Marcantoni called me. He loved my story and how I told it. That is the beginning of the end of isolation in my writing process. Covering the Sun with My Hand was published in May. It has excellent reviews on Amazon and what I’ve heard by good old fashioned word of mouth.

This September not only was I part of the Brooklyn Book Festival as an Author but I was part of the NYC contingent of the Aignos Publishing author team. Our table celebrated Chris Campanioni, author of Going Down, Manuel Melendez, author of Where Angels Fall,  and me with my prized Covering the Sun with My Hand! We had a great time and met with other authors, readers and folks who are connected with the literary process. What a difference from a year ago!

Enjoy some pics. Maybe I’ll see you there next year. With a little work and a lotta hope, anything is possible!

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Chris, Manny, me

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Me, Manny, Chris (I have their profound attention)

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Display for Feast of San Sebastian (Jon Marcantoni) and

Going Down (Chris Campanioni)

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Us again

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Me with Maria Aponte- Author of Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella

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Me with Julia Abrantes of NYC Chapter of Las Comadres

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Compare and despair: Reasons why I’m not an author and you…

Bookshelf pic

An acquaintance cornered me the other day and insisted on trying to figure out why my novel had been accepted for publication and why she was still hitting rejection row. This turned out to be an exercise in Fact or Fiction.

Myth: You don’t have children.

Fact: I actually do have children. They are grown-ups. Ask them to recount to you the hours I spent working on my graduate degree. When I graduated, we all graduated.

Myth: You must have some type of financial backing such as a scholarship or grant.

Fact: I have one source of income. This leads me to the next myth she brought up…

Myth: You don’t work.

Fact: I spend long hours at my daytime job. It doesn’t matter what it actually is. When I’m there, I work during my lunch hour and run out for quick bathroom breaks throughout the day. Believe me, I work.

Myth: You must have an agent.

Fact: No, I sent individualized queries to many (did I write many?) agents and editors. I didn’t garner an agent, but many (did I write many?) queries later, I did garner an editor. I did my stint on rejection row just as my acquaintance is currently.

The reason I am writing this post is because at some point I believed that all writers who finally achieved the pleasure of an acceptance letter or phone call fulfilled these myths. I was as misinformed as my new friend there. I knew someone whose father published many books in the writing field. My friend remembered his dad excusing himself to his study after dinner. There was some sort of sacrifice here and it probably included the whole family.

Becoming an author is not an easy feat but take heart if your novel or book proposal hasn’t been accepted yet. There’s much you can do between mailing out your query and receiving rejections and acceptance letters weeks, and sometimes, months later. The most important of which are rewriting and revising until your material says what you mean for it to say.

Myth: You’ll never have to go through this again now that your book is about to be published.

Fact: I will…

 

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Comadres

 

My mom was the godmother of my father’s brother and his wife’s first son. My little cousin. Sound confusing? Not as easy as Baby Daddy, is it? My mom and my aunt called each other “Coma’e”- the Puerto Ricanized short version of the word Comadre.  Comadre is the word that explains that complicated sounding but very close chosen relationship between women.

Summer evenings. A breeze flutters through the thin cotton curtains. Two women sit at a kitchen table drinking fresh cups of Bustelo. Laughter wafts through the railroad rooms. A little girl sits upright and puts her doll aside. Ears strain to make out the low voices. Stories being told.

My delight in stories told started out way back. Eavesdropping on my mom and her coma’e as they shared tales and listening to my mother read stories to us at the same kitchen table lit the candela of my own story telling. I started speaking through my beloved paper dolls and, eventually, through my research papers at doctoral school. Today, my voice weaves stories through poetry and fiction.

Most recently, I had the honor of attending the Comadres y Compadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn, NY.  Nora de Hoyos Comstock is the President and CEO of Las Comadres para las Americas, an international organization of Latinas. In conjunction with the Association of American Publishers, Las Comadres sponsors a national book club to promote the work of Latino authors.

Seeing Nora standing on stage with Marcela Landres, the author of the e-book How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You, and publisher of the award-winning e-zine Latinidad, and Adriana Dominguez, Literary Agent at Full Circle Literary, all blue jeans and smiles, let me know that I was home.

During the conference, well known authors, agents and editors sat on panels and in ‘one-on-one’s’ and spoke of their experiences in the publishing industry.  They did this with the hope of helping other Latina/o writers come to the forefront to tell their stories in the most creative and supported way possible. A slam-pitch brought the opportunity to share the compelling twists of one’s tale. The writing journey is rigorous and sometimes seemingly impossible. This conference, while realistic, also evoked the image of one person helping the other- the image of two women sitting across the kitchen table.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul– an independent bookstore in Spanish Harlem- set up well stocked tables of books written from rich Latino-culturally based traditions. Many of the authors were available to chat and, yes, give autographs.

There’s no end to the benefits of sitting with like and unlike minded people sharing thoughts, experiences and hopes on the writing experience. I will be on the lookout for other events such as these. I suggest you be on the lookout too. There’s no turning back.

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Author- Leanne Dyck

Please welcome Leanne Dyck, Author. Her love of writing is inspiring and in addition to her novel, I encourage you to check out her very creative and colorful blog.  

Thank you, Leanne!

What was the motivating factor that started you writing?

Love of story, desire to create—these motivations coupled with shyness encourage me to write.

What is your genre and who is your intended audience?

The Sweater Curse—my latest book—is a paranormal, psychological thriller with a knitting theme.

 

Blurb:  Aspiring knitwear designer Gwen Bjarnson is stuck in Purgatory. To escape, she must re-examine her life, journey through her past and right a wrong. But which wrong?

Young and in love, she works to establish her career, except fate has different plans. One rash act and she loses everything. Never resting, always seeking, and yearning for what she can no longer have, Gwen faces the truth:  if she remains, others are destined to die.

How will she solve the mystery before it is too late?

Because The Sweater Curse has a knitting-theme, I thought the intended audience was knitters, but this is what non-knitters are saying…

‘Stitch by colorful stitch, Leanne Dyck knits a tale of intrigue with The Sweater Curse’ –Laurie Buchanan

‘Leanne Dyck has crafted a tale as exotic and existential as Danish author Isak Dinesen’s…

This book defies genre definitions as it finds its unique place on the fiction shelves. Here’s hoping Leanne Dyck returns many times to the intriguing roots of her family’s past.’ –Mystery author Lou Allin‘Go out and pick this one up, you’ll find yourself immersed as well.’ –Deborah Warner, reviewer for By the Book

 ‘I found it very difficult to put this book down once I started it, because the voice of lovely Gwen Bjarnson, already dead at the start of the book, drew me in immediately.’ –Holly Cookson-Robinson

What are you currently writing?

 My work in progress includes…

A Long Way From Her

(55, 000 word novel)

The year is 1983. Nineteen-year-old Lyndi Wimpel has graduated from high school. It’s time for her to leave home but her Mom doesn’t want her to and Lyndi doesn’t think she can. She’s dyslexic and considers herself stupid. But when Lyndi joins Katimavik (a government-run youth group for participants 17 to 21 years old) she learns she is capable of more than she—or her parents—ever dreamed.

Based on a true story.

 Beau the Cat

(700 word picture book)

Beau and his human Amy Sue are good friends. In fact, they spend all their time together. There is only one exception—nighttime. Each night, while Amy Sue sleeps, Beau leaves her to travel to a world alive with hooting owls and barking dogs. What Beau does one spectacular night will captivate you. It may even make you giggle. 

My Life in Purl and Plain

(non-fiction knitting book)

Knitting has carried me through the peeks and valleys of my life—from my struggles in school, to falling in love, to my mom’s death, to redefining my life. My Life in Purl and Plain is a tribute to the craft in vignettes, essays, patterns and techniques. 

I’m also working on the sequel to The Sweater Curse as well as a collection of short stories. 

How do you make time to write? 

Frankly, the question should be how do I make time to clean the house and eat. : ) Writing is my main focus. 

What inspires you to write? 

I’m inspired by what I’ve seen, felt, heard, overheard, experienced and dreamed. The world sings with inspiration. What I need is a quite place that gives me time to collect, distil and transform it into ink on paper. 

What would you have done differently in your writing life, if anything at all? 

Oh, yes, I can play the “should-have” game. I should have taken more pride in my early attempts at writing. I should have started submitting my stories to publications early. I should have filed completed stories and story ideas away for fuel for my creative fire. I often play the “should-have” game, but then I realize that everything I’ve done so far has gotten me to this place—and right here, right now is the best place to be. 

Tell us about your marketing strategy. 

I invest time and effect to build my social network. I’m on twitter (lustful graces) and I have a blog (http://sweatercursed.blogspot.com). New posts are added to my blog five times a week. Each day has a theme:  Monday—knitting, Tuesday—writing, Wednesday—reading, Thursday—island life and other things of importance. Every Friday I host a professional in the publishing industry.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those generous people who’ve visited my blog, shared their stories and inspired others. People like you, Theresa. 

I also enjoy attending writing events. Thanks to the couching of other authors, I now remember to bring my business card and challenge myself to network with at least three people. 

My marketing strategy is to build community both in the real and cyber worlds. 

Does your spiritual life influence your writing? If so, how? 

Yes, it does. It inspires, motivates, and buoys me up. 

What’s your literary community burning desire? 

My literary desires are three-fold. They are, in brief, to continue to network with publishing industry professionals; to find a good home for my latest manuscripts; and to continue to write as I enjoy the now. 

Thank you for interviewing me, Theresa.

 Author links:

Twitter ID:  lustful graces

Web site:  www.leannedyck.com

Blog:  http://sweatercursed.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

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The Glass Half Full

I once had the pleasure of hearing someone talk about how he grew up in the “Family of the Glass Half Empty” and how he was now happy to be in the “Family of the Glass Half Full.” That statement really made me think about how I treat life. As I reflected on my year, as most of us do at the New Year, I realized my glass was looking pretty empty. So I decided to turn that tricky place of “less than” around.

There are goals that I haven’t achieved this year but there were a bunch of objectives I did accomplish. My tendency to look at things as events, not processes, can bring me down quicker than a ladder on a flight of stairs. I also look at the externals and forget about the internal doings- those things that have more substance. It doesn’t really matter how much “Gucci talk” I hear. I’m a lot healthier when I “keep it green.”

I’d held onto beliefs that writers sit in dark rooms, with quill in hand, at a wooden writing table, solitary in their writing endeavors. Sniff. Boo hoo. Hand me that shawl, please. Lonely isn’t it? Sometimes it is that. Other times, it’s about chatting with other writers, sharing words, and receiving unfiltered feedback. It’s about healing the wounds of ‘never being good enough’ or thinking ‘I’m too darn good’ and becoming right sized again. This last year, actually my first year, of blogging has been a challenge that has kept me thinking of what writing prospects interest me the most, what I’d like to share and who I’d like to share that with. These have changed and grown.

Interviewing writers and authors who I believe have a spark of the flame of creativity that should be shared turned out to be an awesome enterprise.  I found that there’s positivity and genuine caring about readers, about community and what an author’s literary gift to the world can be. Gifting a book is much deeper than wrapping it in colorful paper and ribbon. The gift of writing can share a world, a history, a hope and a breath. The word ‘ruah’ means ‘breath’ that is furthered defined as ‘spirit’. As spirits, we bring our gifts to the world in our physical bodies. For some of us it’s plastering walls, creating kaleidoscopes and, for others, it’s writing stories. Allowing myself to be authentic as I’ve shared my voice, via blogging, has brought me closer to my goals of actualizing my dreams as a writer. Writing is one of the ways that I provide service in this life.

Interviewees Jason Baumann Montilla, poet and librarian extraordinaire, and authors Sarah Cortez http://poetacortez.com/and Steven Torres http://www.steventorres.com/bring realism in a comprehensible language to their published works. Do they think of their written words as ‘service’?” I bet that may happen some of the time. When they are riveted to their computers, pens and clean white sheets of paper or an old tossed napkin quickly retrieved to jot a fragile thought, they may not be thinking service. What I received from each of them had the print of service-dedication, perseverance, and patience- for the good. I look forward to widening the beacon of light on other writers’ and authors’ positions on the writing process- the doorway to full consciousness, the breath of life.

My glass is half full. It may spill now and again. I will fill it up a bit more. Through the clear water I will see life magnified to its marvelous proportions. It will show me how I fit, oh so well, with the other sea fishies, swimming among the green plants, floating past the coral and settling onto the rocks that hold me secure in this thing called life.

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Interview with Steven Torres-Author

Steven Torres was born and raised in New York City, but did spend a year and a half of his youth in Puerto Rico. The author of six traditionally published novels including PRECINCT PUERTO RICO and THE CONCRETE MAZE, Steven has recently ventured into ebooks with LUCY CRUZ AND THE CHUPACABRA KILLINGS and KILLING WAYS 2: URBAN STORIES. He lives in Connecticut now with his wife and daughter and, like many writers, is working on a novel about the Nephilim. Learn more at his website: steventorres.com.

Theresa: What is your genre and who is your intended audience?

Steven: I write mystery and crime novels and I hope that people who like good fiction are my audience. I have set most of my novels and stories in Puerto Rican communities, both on the island and in New York, so anyone looking for that setting will be pleased, I think.

Theresa: What are you currently writing?

Steven: Something completely different from what I’ve ever done – a “sword and sorcerer” set in 1099 – the Crusades. So far I’m enjoying it – good to research the period. For instance, there was a well-documented case of mass cannibalism during the war.

Theresa: How do you make time to write?

Steven: I sleep very little. Often I write from about eleven at night to one or two o’clock. A lot of writing, of course, is thinking through the plot, building characters in your mind, etc. and this can be done at any time during the day. I sometimes find myself watching the movie of my stories in my head while I’m driving. Probably not the best practice…

Theresa: What inspires you to write, other than fame and fortune?

Steven: I guess I’m just a writer at heart. Stories come to me, and I write them down. For some stories I have felt a sense of advocacy at work in me – that is, I want to speak up for people and about causes. For instance, when I first sat down to write a mystery years ago, I set it in Puerto Rico mostly because I hadn’t ever heard of a mystery set on the island (there have been some, but not many). My first novel deals with some of the horrible conditions Dominican immigrants confront trying to enter Puerto Rico. My second novel is partially about domestic violence. There are voices that need to be heard. That’s inspirational.

Theresa: What would you have done differently in your writing life, if anything at all?

Steven: I probably would have gotten an agent before selling my first five books. Not that I would have necessarily gotten more money, but it is valuable to have a professional eye go over your manuscripts – someone who has read ten thousand other manuscripts.  

Theresa: Tell us about your marketing strategy.

Steven: I haven’t had one yet. That’s probably another thing I would change about my writing life. I keep hoping that one day I’ll start a Twitter or Facebook account, but the Steven Torres who would do those things hasn’t appeared yet.

Theresa: Does your spiritual life influence your writing? If so, how?

Steven: It does. It gives me a sense of right and wrong that I hope works itself out on the page. It also gives me a desire to expose some of the difficulties people face. Ultimately, it’s probably the reason I usually write about crime.

Theresa: Thanks Steven! I so enjoyed reading  The Concrete Maze. It was gritty, described a slice of real life and the narrator’s wry sense of perspective came shining through. I’ve just finished Precinct Puerto Rico Book One and am looking forward to settling down to read the rest of the series. You are an inspiration. Check out Steven’s website www.steventorres.com

 

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Keeping it Real

My insides shifted when I heard that Piri Thomas, of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, was dead today at age 83. Thomas was the author of Down these Mean Streets. Last week I posted my first blog interview with Jason Baumann Montilla who spoke of his interest in literature citing Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim and Chester Hines, African American Authors, and Miguel Piñero, another celebrated Puerto Rican playwright and author. I have to add another- Claude Brown, author of Manchild of the Promised Land.  I was reading all of these authors’ books starting at age eleven.

My family moved out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York, when I was fourteen years old. We were trying to survive the death of my sister, who was a few years older than me, to kidney disease by moving out of a neighborhood riddled with drugs, theft and all that came with the social ills of the sixties and early seventies. We hadn’t realized that the move was a very astute real estate operation that would herald the beginning stages of the gentrification of Park Slope. Our new neighbors, in Flatbush, were horrified that I toted Down these Mean Streets into their house when I accompanied my Mom on her visits. How could such a lovely young girl read such awful descriptions of a harsh and terrible world? I read these books repeatedly with a relish. I understood and identified with the writings. No, I wasn’t shooting heroin into my veins nor craps in an alley but I recognized the voices and I understood “the overlying arch,” as my doctoral advisor would say, to a degree I’ve never seen in other books. The authors’ words catapulted my interest in reading to an extent I’ve never again experienced. They told “the truth” as far as I was concerned. They lived life and “kept it real.”

I’ve been writing how the Nancy Drew Mysteries and Cherry Ames Book Series were the staples of my development as a reader and a writer. That’s true. Then there was Joyce Carol Oates- her writings sparked for me a recognition of women’s voices and Julia Alvarez, the voice of the Latina! Yes, yes, yes, all true. But then I read, Ernesto Quinones’ Bodega Dreams and I remembered the voice of the streets- the place that I had not actually grown up in but had grown in me. In my work, I sit countless hours listening to men tell the tales of their lives on the streets. I sit in my office in a men’s shelter on the Lower East Side of NYC. They come in, we talk, they leave. I walk by them on the street at five, having shared something with them that I read about at age 11 and 14 and 16 again. My Pop told me “Those are your people” when we passed them by hanging out at street corners. At first I didn’t know what he was talking about- me a kid, wanting to read my book, as I sat in the passenger seat of his car. I didn’t know that one day I’d be listening to the stories and taking them in heart and soul. I didn’t know that one day I’d be a writer and be the keeper of millions of stories that I’d listened to, one at a time. I’ve been entrusted with a precious gift in what I do, in what has been shared with me and the experiences that have been slowly built within me.

Today, hearing that Piri Thomas had died, a spark that was untended to inside my chest flared up. There is something here that must be recognized. It is the spark of “Keeping it Real” and that is something I will do in my writing and in my life. I will do this in honoring Thomas, Brown, Piñero and all of those energies who chose to see and live life without veils of denial and fear of what “the other” would think. I will use these men as powers of example and vow to do the same.

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