Summer Reading List

tim horvath, understories, book, author, writerWell, summer is right around the corner for us New Englanders. The warmer weather gets us outdoors into the parks, onto our brownstone stoops, and to the beaches. Hopefully, if you’re like me, you’ll be bringing a book with you.

Two years ago when I was knee-deep in writing Instant Connections, I was reading a lot of non-fiction books: Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, just to name a few.

This year, as I just started a new challenge––writing a historical fiction book, I’ve been reading and re-reading books in that genre to learn more about how authors tackle plot lines and building interesting and dynamic characters.

So, yeah, I’ve tackled all of Dan Brown’s books. They are easy to read and he tells a good story. William Martin is another favorite of mine. In the last year I have read his books Back Bay, The Lincoln Letter, and most recently Harvard Yard. His approach to writing gets you reading in the present day, in one chapter, and then in the next, you are reading about something that happened back in time.  The story volleys back and forth like this throughout the book.

As for me, I have finished some of the research for my new book and have about 10% of the writing started. For a historical fiction book, most average between 90-120,000 words, so I’ve got a ways to go.

In between my writing this summer, I have added these six books to my Summer Reading List:

The Ocean at The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Understories by Tim Horvath
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
REMOTE by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond

The first two I’ve had on my shelf for a while, the third book is by a colleague of mine, the forth book I’ve started but need to pick back up, the fifth book I bought and will read because I liked their first book REWORK, and the last book I have also started but need to finish.

What are you reading?

Scrivener for Writers

I wish I had this program when I wrote my first book!

This week I was out to lunch with author Tim Horvath and we were talking about a new historcial fiction book that I just started writing. I was explaining to him that it was difficult keeping all of the topics and ideas in order. He told me about this incredible program for writers that allows you to organize chapters, thoughts, notes––basically everything you need in order to organize and layout a book. It’s called Scrivener and you can download Scrivener through the Apple App store. I highly recommend it. Check out some of the videos on their site to see how it works.

scrivener, app, writers, writing application

10 Rules for Fiction Writers

So I went out to get a burrito, and came home with an idea for a fiction book.  I ran the idea past my wife, and she wanted to know where I came up with such an idea.  It just came to me, I said.  I’m already working on a book of essays about photography and those are all non-fiction, fact-based stories from my personal experiences.  This new idea has nothing to do with me or photography––it is a historical fiction story with roots to Boston, especially the Back Bay/Beacon Hill neighborhoods.10 rules for writing fiction, writer, fiction, stories, books, tips

Since fiction writing isn’t my forte, I plan to do a little research before I get too engrossed in this thing.  The Guardian ran this story about the 10 Rules for Fiction Writers.  I need all the help I can get.

I know writers like Dan Brown and William Martin have a specific style where each chapter goes back and forth from adventures between the protagonists point of view to the antagonists point of view, or present day to to past. I don’t know if that is a specific style of writing––I guess I’ll have to figure that out. Right now this is just me being excited.  I hope it pans out.

Don’t bring me May flowers during April showers.

roses, flowers, april, showers, may, essay, amwriting, shop, shopping, wife, marriage, bargain shopperSome women don’t like flowers. My wife is one of them. She’d rather I spend my money on things that last––actually scratch that: she’d rather I not spend any money. I’ve accepted the no-flowers rule because I’m not a fan of them either. A flower shop smells like a funeral home, and that reminds me of dead things, and frankly, I’m not into dead things or zombies.

Back when we were dating, I did entice my wife, who I’ve been with for twenty years this year, with a single sunflower. She thought that was original, but not as original as the comment that I made about her big feet on the day we first met. Yes, I know. You’re probably saying to yourself, what a dope. But let me set the scene. I saw her sitting at a table––legs crossed, one leg bouncing off the other. I said, “You have the biggest feet that I’ve ever seen…I love them.” Her response: “I’m gonna marry you.” So needless to say, I’m grateful that she was true to her word and has kept me around so long. After our first date, I knew I was with someone special. I did one of those one-arm fist pumps like I was Ray Bourque scoring the winning goal for the Boston Bruins. F.Y.I: hockey players invented the fist-pump, not them Jersey Shore kids.

You know what I find truly amazing about my wife: The way she shops. She has a Masters Degree in Shopping––not really, but maybe a college should take a hint and start one. My wife has this Twitter handle @eatshoplivebos. Yes, she does all of those things in Boston, but let’s analyze that second word: shop. If you have a woman like my woman, it will be quite evident if you watch them shop. Do it––just take her to the mall or to one of her favorite stores.

Generally speaking, you won’t see her beeline to the ‘just arrived’ rack in the store, rather a frugal consumer, scratch that––a bargain shopper like my wife dives right into the clearance rack. She’ll whip those hangers around feverishly side to side like she was a lioness attacking a zebra on the Serengeti until she has sifted through the entire rack (please note: no animals were harmed during the writing of this essay).

To get the title of Ms. Bargainess (I actually just made that up) took years of practice. The skills were earned like patches on a Girl Scouts sash by watching her mother Thelma shop at the now defunct Filene’s Basement. Do you want to see a bargain shopper’s eyes light up? Show them a hundred and twenty dollar dress marked down five times to the new low price of nineteen ninety nine. They leave the store like they just robbed it!

Us men, we have no clue what we’re doing in department stores. We buy labels––name brands and what our eyes are drawn to, rather than price. If it fits, that’s a bonus because not everything fits in my world. That’s because my body type just won’t fit into skinny jeans or athletic fit shirts that designers are so eager to pump out to their consumers. I’m one of those average males who exercises occasionally and eats whatever I want––frankly, I don’t have a shut off valve. I’m certain that there’s a lot of ‘my’ type out there, however, this story isn’t about me.

When we’re at a store together, my wife’s adamant that we go our separate ways. “J, you’re not going to follow me around like a little puppy dog. If you’re going to do that, then you shoulda just stayed at home.” It gets even better when she addresses me like she’s a boxing trainer. “Honey, you need to poke around. Move your feet and check out the racks. If you’re tired, go sit in that chair in the corner. I’ll come over and get you when I’m ready to leave. If you’re too tired to shop, go out in the car and take a nap.” Have you ever seen a person leave a store with a bag full of merchandise, hop up on the bumper of their SUV, throw their hands up in the air in victory and shout, “Adrian!” You haven’t? Neither have I, but I bet it would make for a good movie, maybe something like Rocky XVIII: the Nordstrom Rack experiment.

Grants for Writers

Today I did not put pencil to pager or finger to keyboard.  However, I did do a little research about grants for writers. Besides the current memoir that I am working on, I have two to three other book projects that I’m thinking about.  Like I said in an earlier post, I’m not a fan of putting all of my eggs in one basket, I’d rather have a carton full of various eggs, preferably PAAS colored Easter Eggs that are tie-dyed and trippy like Jerry Garcia might’ve made them––kidding.

If you are a writer looking for grants, here is one website that I have been combing through.  It’s called Funds For Writers.

And here’s another called, Grant Space.

Now, I’ve only applied for one writing-related grant.  Grants take time to fill out.  Also make sure to check the deadlines.  Those are very important!

You’re welcome!

A Very Short Story

How long do you look at a page before you start to type something? I wrote and edited one essay today and then I started another one. The cursor had been blinking on the page for more than an hour before I realized I was done. This isn’t a ‘writer’s block’ thing. This short story will stand at just two words.

As the story goes, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words.  He did:  For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

My story stands at two words: Expletive Deleted!

Learning to Deal with Rejection

banksy, follow your dreams cancelled, tag, graffiti, writing, rejection, So most of you know already that I’m trying to get book published.  The other day I got another rejection from yet another agency.  The crazy thing is, I’m totally aware of the process and have embraced it.  My wife on the other hand said, “why do you pick these types of careers to follow?”  When you are a creative-type like I am, this is part of it.  Before writing, I was a photographer––currently I own a photography gallery.  I dealt with rejections as an artist and have watched artists that I represent go through it as well.  I’m usually the one on the other side of the table commenting on artists portfolios.  Now the tables are turned.

So receiving rejections from these literary agencies is totally understandable. Without naming names, I am going to show you some of the responses that I’ve received over the past few months.  Writers who are trying to get published: get used to this.  You’ll get a lot of these.  Embrace it and move on.  This is the only way you’ll stay sane.  I took this photograph a while back of Banksy’s ‘Follow Your Dreams-Cancelled‘. Don’t listen to him.  Follow your dreams to the end.

Food for thought:  J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times before finding a publisher for Harry Potter and Stephen King received 30 rejection letters for his book Carrie.  One day someone will come along that will want to work with you and then you’ll freak the fuck out!

enjoy!

Dear Jason,
It’s my belief that an agent needs to make a strong emotional connection to any memoir she takes on in case the submission process turns out to be long and difficult, and she has to hang in there with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t make that connection here, and so, have decided to pass. I’m sorry not to be writing with better news and wish you the best of luck elsewhere.

Dear Author,
Thank you very much for giving us a chance to consider your work. Unfortunately, your project is not right for us at this time. Publishing is a matter of taste, however, and another agent may feel differently—we encourage you to keep looking for an enthusiastic editor or agent. We wish you the very best of luck with your work.

Dear Jason,
Thank you very much for your query. I’m afraid I’m not going to be the ideal agent for this and I’m going to pass. Good luck.

Dear Mr. Landry,
Thank you for your query. After consideration we have decided not to pursue this project, as it doesn’t seem quite right for us. As you know, this is a highly subjective business, and other agents are sure to feel differently. We wish you all the best in your search and hope your book finds a good home soon.

Dear Jason,
Thank you for thinking of me for your book project.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel this project is quite right for me and have decided not to pursue.  Please know that this business is highly subjective, and that what doesn’t work for one agent may work perfectly for another. I hope you will continue to search for a home for your manuscript. I wish you the best of luck as you move forward with your writing career.

Dear Author,
I regret that I am unable to answer your query with a personal note—please know that I read each and every letter in my inbox. At this time, I am only responding personally to projects which I intend to pursue. I’m afraid that in this instance, I did not have the enthusiasm necessary to request pages. I apologize for the frustratingly subjective nature of this business and I do wish you all the best of luck finding the right agent for your work.

Dear Jason,
Thank you for sending this through to us. We wanted to let you know that we greatly appreciated having the opportunity to review your work, but are sorry to say that we do not feel able to offer you representation.

Sometimes we must pass on books, even very good books that we feel are either out of our range or would require an amount of attention we cannot provide at this time.  In addition, we can’t afford to take on projects that we’re not absolutely confident we can sell.  But we very much hope that you will find an agent with the right enthusiasm for your work.

Many thanks again for considering our agency, and we wish you the best of luck with your writing.

11 Good Quotes for Writers

quote, fortune cookie, literary, writing, trees, writer, grub street, quotesAre you writing a memoir or a non-fiction book project?  I went back over my notes from last weekend’s AWP Writing Conference in Boston.  Here are some great quotes that I wrote down from two separate sessions: The Art of the Non-Fiction Idea and The Urge Toward Memoir.

Since I’m learning just as much as the next person, I was too busy feverishly writing notes to remember who actually said these great one-liners.  If you know who said it, feel free to send me a note.  Wouldn’t some of these quotes look good inside fortune cookies?  This images is from a fortune cookie that I was given at the Grub Street booth.  You guys rock!

Here’s 11 Good Quotes for Writers to Think About.

“Date around before you marry an idea.”

“Will your idea pass the cocktail party test?”

“You need to be able to sell your idea in two minutes.”

“Tell the stories that only you can tell.” ~ Ethan Gilsdorf

“Test out your ideas in short form first.”

“Build up your authority in your niche.”

“Virality = will your writing piece circulate and go viral online?”

“Your project is a balance between you and your voice and the topic.”

“You have to have control of your story just like your novel.  Your readers are dying to know what’s next.”

“All of life is a cover story.”

“Your family will not see things from your point of view.”