Friday, December 30, 2011

The Constipated Muse

My hubby and I ran away from home for Christmas: no cell service, no internet, no family, no stress. Our daughter went to stay with her dad for the holiday, granting us four days of nothing to do but lounge. We spent three nights at a B and B in Westport.  Drinking wine in the afternoon and then walking on the beach while our dog ran across the sand was the perfect vacation to wipe away the stress of this hectic year.

When I returned home from vacation, my muse was waiting for me.

"Feel better?" she asked when I walked into my room.

Setting my overstuffed canvas suitcase on the floor, I said, "Yes. Much better. You?"

"Fine. I'm fine."

I studied her pursed lips, her folded arms, the snakes twined severely on the back of her head. "You don't look fine."

"Of course I am. It was a nice break. I'm glad you had fun."

"What did you do?"

"Nothing. I decided to stay here and read."

"Really? I thought you were going up to Alaska to play in the snow."

"I changed my mind." She reached out and brushed lint from the back of my office chair.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

She nodded.

Shaking my head, I said, "Why don't I believe you?"

"I'm fine!" she snapped, taking a step away from me.

"Okay, you're fine. That's why you decided to stay home all alone and read books you've already memorized rather than go play in the snow with Alaskan wolves. And that's why you're holding your body so tight those snakes look like they might break in two if you sneeze."

She sighed. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Okay." I bent down and opened my suitcase.

"You wouldn't understand. It's a muse problem."

"Alright. We don't have to talk about it."

Pacing the room, she said, "It's painful and muses find it embarrassing, so we don't talk about it, especially not to our artists."

"If you say so." I pulled out a pile of mostly dirty clothes and threw them toward the hamper.

"I doubt you would even understand, but..." She stopped pacing and stared up at the ceiling. "Sometimes, we muses can get... backed up."

"Backed up?"

"Yes. Our energy can... get stuck."

I stood. "Stuck?"

"Yes. Stuck." Her lips pressed tightly as she stared at me, then she said, "It's very uncomfortable."

"Sounds like it. But what do you mean your energy gets stuck?"

"Sometimes the creative fires burn too hot and too much inspiration flows through me without an outlet. Since you're human, and busy..." She rolled her eyes."... you couldn't possibly handle the amount of creativity that needs release, and besides, you'd burn to a crisp, or at least your brain would."

"So it's like being horny?"

"No, not at all. After a while, too much repression leads to a slowing down of the inspirational flow, which causes the creative fire to back up. The fires build, but the outlet becomes blocked. This leads to actual physical pain for the muse."

"I see." She watched me closely as if judging if I was capable of grasping something so delicate and crucial to the muse experience. I took a deep breath and said, "It's more like being constipated."

Her eyes widened. "What?"

"Constipation. You know, when you really need to go but you can't, so all you feel is cramping and gas."

"I should have known that you'd imagine trapped creative energy feeling like the need to shit."

Suppressing a smile, I held out my hands to her. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to belittle this, I'm just trying to understand what you're going through so I can help."

"You can't help. You can only make jokes."

"I'm not laughing."

"Yes you are. You think I can't see that smile you're hiding."

"What can I do to help."

"Do you really want to help?"

"Yes, I really do."

"For starters you can finish the kids book immediately so you can finish the play. Then you can start the next play. And after that I'll tell you about the other book idea I have. I have lots of ideas to pump new energy into Medusa's Muse, including a new website and e-books. " She paced the room again. "Your workshop is ready to go forward and I have lots of thoughts on how and where to present the material. Also, you seem really excited about writing for kids, so I have several more possible subjects. And "Miranda" is waiting for you to finish, but I'm not sure that's where your passion lies anymore. Don't forget Burying Mama. You should just send it out into the wild again and see what happens." She whirled around to face me, her eyes shining. "Plus those two short stories are simply stellar, but of course need polish."

I sat down, suddenly feeling tired. "No wonder you're constipated."

Stamping her foot, she yelled, "I am not constipated!"

"I know, I know... I'm sorry. You have too many ideas for one artist. It's a big problem. I'm sorry I can't get all of your ideas done."

She gracefully dropped to the floor and sat with her legs criss-crossed. After a moment of silence, she said, "It's not your fault. It's mine. I push too hard. I want too much. Everything in the world inspires me, but the whole world is too full. That's why I stayed here in your room reading books I've already read a thousand times. I don't need any more ideas." She held her stomach tightly. "Ouch."

You need a good laxative, I thought, but decided it wise to keep my mouth shut. "I'll try to finish the kids book this week, if that will help."

"Thank you." She smiled at me. "But no pressure. Like I said, this is my fault. The creative flow is out of balance because I'm out of balance. It's time for me to focus, and help you focus, until we're both in harmony with the work.  It just takes time."

Time. That seems to be the biggest problem of all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice: the holiday that celebrates nerdiness

Solstice is a big event in my family. We decorate the Solstice tree, string the house with as many holiday lights as we can before blowing the fuses, and open most of our presents. It's the day we celebrate our family, just the three of us. There are no outside obligations, like mom wondering why we didn't invite her over, or long drives in Christmas traffic. We often have a few friends over to share a good meal and some good bottles of wine. It's a relaxed, carefree, do whatever we want, kind of holiday.

Plus, Solstice is really frickin cool!

Solstice is a celebration of the return of sunlight. The Sun has traveled as far to the southern horizon as it can get in our hemisphere and it will now begin to climb back toward the north, bringing longer days with more light. Yes, I know, the Sun isn't actually going anywhere, the Earth is doing all of the traveling, and it's the angle of the Earth in relation to the Sun that changes the Sun's position.  Which is exactly why Solstice is so cool. The Earth has traveled to this specific position on it's journey around the Sun, marking the exact location where the days will begin to get longer for us. This is as dark as it's going to get.

Ancient peoples marked this occasion and celebrated with bonfires and music, which is where we get Christmas lights and Christmas carols (maybe I made that last one up). We can't light a bonfire in our yard anymore or the cops get upset, so we wind hundreds of colorful lightbulbs all over our homes to chase away the darkness, just as our ancestors did with their bonfires and candles.

I'm not a pagan (technically I guess I am because I'm not Christian), so my family doesn't attend the Pagan celebrations in our community. I guess you'd call me a Scientific Pagan; my holidays focus on astronomy and nature. I drink champagne when NASA sends a new probe into space, or when scientists discover something new about the universe. I was absolutely giddy when they discovered a new planet in the "Goldie Locks zone." And I cried when the last Space Shuttle flight landed. No more launches.

Solstice and Equinox are the holidays that let me fly my nerd flag, when I can debate with other nerds the exact time of day winter begins. The Winter Solstice happens at the exact same moment all over the world, and is officially clocked in Universal Time at 5:30 pm on December 22nd. But what is the exact time in our own timezone? Here is an article from Earthsky that will help you determine the exact clock-time for your timezone. For Pacific Daylight Time (my own timezone) I need to subtract 7 hours from the Universal Time (5:30 pm on the 22nd - 7 hours = 11:30 pm on the 21st). Did I do that right?

I'm a science nerd, but unfortunately not a math nerd.

The universe is more beautiful and mysterious than you can possibly imagine, filled with wonders and constantly evolving. As soon as you think you've got it figured out, a new discovery will shake your hypothesis into nonsense. And the Earth, our planet, our home, is this beautiful vessel filled with just as much beauty and wonder as the universe it was created from. We should honor that wonder. Recognize the impossible odds that allow us to be here.

This is why I celebrate Solstice. This is why I proudly call myself a nerd.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Enough with the Insecurity

"Have you read your blog lately?" my Muse asks while storming into my room with a stack of books in her arms.

"Yeah. I wrote it didn't I?"

"Then you know how pathetic you sound lately."


"Yes. Pathetic." She paces the room still holding the tower of uneven paperbacks. "Blah, blah, blah... I'm so insecure... I don't have any confidence... I'm so afraid... pathetic!"

"What are you talking about? I'm trying to help people."

"Help people? If helping people is showing what a complete wimp you are then you're doing an awesome job. Here! This is for helping people." She tosses the books at me.

Flinging out my arms to protect my head, I catch one of the flapping books as it heads for my eyes. Several land in my lap and the rest bounce onto the floor.

"Watch it!" I shout. "What the hell are you doing?"

She puts her hands on her hips and in a mocking tone says, "Helping you."

I look at the book in my hand. How to find meaning in the second half of life. "What's this?"

"It's a book to help you stop being so annoying."

Looking down at my lap I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Co-Dependent No More. 

"Why are you throwing self-help books at me?"

"Because nothing else seems to be working. You're still the same insecure, terrified, wimpy little writer and editor you always were. Only now you're too old to blame it on youth." 

"I am not."

"Yes you are."



"You're just mean!"

"God! You can't even argue like an adult!" My muse kicks Going to pieces without falling apart so hard the front cover rips.

"You know I grew up in a crazy household. It's taken me a very long time to get over it."

"But that's the problem, you still haven't. You're still living like that little girl, and at your age, it's boring."

"Will you please stop making cracks about my age."

"Not until you start acting your age. Then I might."

I stand and let the few books in my lap fall to the floor. "I'm sorry."

"Stop saying you're sorry."

"Okay, I'm... you're... right."

My muse crosses her arms. "I am?"

"Yes, you're right. I have been too focused on my own insecurity, and yes I have been writing about it too much. I'm just nervous, that's all. But I'm working on it."

"Work on it harder."

"Okay, but you know you don't help when you throw self-help books at me."

"Be happy they weren't encyclopedias."

We stare at each other, our eyes not quite meeting for fear I might turn to stone. Her snakes stick out their tongues at me.

My muse sighs. "You really have no idea how talented your are, do you?"

I shrug. "I guess not."

"Well figure it out." She turns her back on me. "And stop wasting my time."

I look down at the floor and read, The places that scare you. 

"Maybe if you didn't yell at me so much I wouldn't be so insecure."

She turns to face me again. "Don't try to blame this on me."

"You aren't exactly the nicest muse on the planet, you know."

"The niceness of muses is overrated. We're all bitches. And besides, do you want to be coddled or inspired?"

"Inspired, of course."

"Then pick up these books, read a few, and get back to work. Enough with the insecurity for frell's sake!"

I snap my fingers. "Just like that? You know it isn't that easy..."

"Yes it is. Stop writing about it, dwelling on it, thinking about it, and stewing in it. When you feel insecure push it aside, take a deep breath, and keep working. Simple."

I can't think of any way to respond, because the simplicity of her words is so... simple. But is it really that easy? Just stop thinking about insecurity and it will go away?

She reads my mind. "Yes, it really is that simple. If you stop feeding your fears, they die. God, I didn't have to read a single fucking self-help book to know that. Humans overcomplicate everything."

I shrug. "Okay then, I'll give it a try."

"Good." She walks out of my room, yelling, "And throw out those books, too."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


How many of you feel that if you're not earning money with your writing, then you're not really a writer? Deep down, do you feel doubt in your abilities as an artist if no one pays you for what you create? Does price denote value?

I do. That's why I dabble at writing. I write "when I have time." When all the bills have been paid and phone calls returned and emails sent, when the house is clean, dishes done, laundry folded and put away. When the plants have been watered and my desk cleaned off and all the grocery shopping done. Then, and only then, am I allowed to write.

And this attitude bleeds into Medusa's Muse too. I edit manuscripts because I owe that to my authors; I do it for them. But everything else, the promotion of my press, updating the website, marketing books, lining up teaching gigs, record keeping and networking... all of those things that help my press thrive get put on the list called "when I have time."

This is called sabotage. I am sabotaging myself by not dedicating the same focus and energy to my press and my writing that I gave to grad school. It was easy to give focus to grad school, because that would eventually lead to a job and a paycheck. A so called real job. My press is a job, but it doesn't make much money, therefore it doesn't feed my family. The press feeds itself. I can't justify devoting time to it when it doesn't sustain me economically.

Which is bullshit, because my press sustains me in every other way but economics. It feeds my soul, my spirit, my artistic needs and creativity. Writing feeds me in even deeper ways. Why does economics always take priority?

Yes, we have to eat and keep a roof over our head. Making money is very important, especially if you have children. We live in this world which requires sacrifice sometimes to survive. I'm not knocking the importance of work.

But we must not let that importance destroy the other things that are important, especially our art.

And if you find yourself saying things like, "I don't have time to write" or "The grocery shopping is way more important right now" then it's time to take a good long look at your priorities. Are you saying this because it's true? Or are you finding an excuse to quit, and in so doing sabotage yourself.

Sabotage. The power to destroy your art before you've devoted yourself to it.

I know I'm just as guilty as anyone of sabotage, and I'm trying hard to stop. My press is important, not just to my authors, but for the joy it brings me. So why do I just dabble at publishing rather than treat it like the job it is?

I don't know, other than I must believe on some deep level that I don't deserve to be a successful publisher and writer.

Is that how you feel?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Silence and Fear

When I was 19, I dated a man who turned out to have serious mental problems and was prone to violence.  I was able to run away. He hounded me for a few months, but finally he stopped. It took many years for me to feel safe again, to not jump every time I saw a man who looked like him. I stayed underground for a long time. Then, 20 years later, I started a book publishing company and set up a blog and website.

And that's how he found me again.

At first, I wanted to shut down my blog, delete the Medusa's Muse Facebook page, and strike my name from everything I'd ever written or published. I was petrified he'd show up on my front door one day after piecing together information he'd gathered from the net. And the idea that he was now reading about me and my family from four years of blog posts made me sick.

Do I have to destroy everything I've built just to feel safe again?

He wasn't threatening me; he said he just wanted to get in touch.

Why? What can possibly be gained by talking to me?

Staying silent seemed like the best option, and that included staying silent as an artist.

image from

How many of us have been silenced by fear of the past? Or afraid of what the power of our words could bring? How many writers have been gagged because others fear their words? For women, silence is particularly powerful. We are taught to stay quiet, because girls who speak their minds get punished.

He tried to contact me again, but I have decided not to shut down my press, or my blog, or website, or Facebook page. I will not change my name. I will not become quietly anonymous. I am no longer that terrified 19 year old girl hiding in the bathroom because she thinks her boyfriend is going to kill her, staying silent because he said if I made a sound he'd hit me. I am a grown woman with a voice and a vision and yes I'm still afraid. I'm afraid of him. But I won't allow that fear to silence me.

Not anymore.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fourth anniversary of the launch of the first book I published, or, how I became an Orientation and Mobility teacher.

This past weekend marks the four year anniversary of when I published the first book from my press, Medusa's MuseTraveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachersby Laura Fogg, is a memoir of Laura's 30 + years teaching children with vision impairments, and ultimately what those children taught her about life, love, loss, and joy. Laura has been my daughter's teacher since Queen Teen was 3, and when I discovered Laura was also a talented writer, I offered to publish her book. After a year-and a half of edits, revisions, and debates over cover design and font choices, her book was launched at the California Association of Orientation and Mobility Specialists Conference. The other teachers were excited and impressed, and we sold almost 100 copies in two days. Laura was ecstatic and I was thrilled. I was also intrigued by the other O and M teachers I met at the conference and the work they so obviously loved doing. A few days after the launch of Traveling Blind, I decided to go to Graduate School and become an O and M teacher too.

Four years later, I attended the Orientation and Mobility Conference again, this time as a credentialed O and M Specialist with a Master's Degree and a job working side-by-side with Laura. I'm still a publisher, but I'm also a teacher, working with visually impaired students throughout all of Mendocino County. It was a long, exhausting crawl to get my degree, as many of you saw if you've been reading my blog for the past three years, but so worth it. I love teaching, I love Orientation and Mobility, and I love my students.

The conference is held every other year in Monterey at a hotel right on the beach. About half of my classmates from SF State were there, as were my teachers. My main focus as a teacher was learning about GPS systems for the visually impaired because I have a student who may benefit from using such a device (see, I already sound like a teacher. "may benefit from using such a device." lol). On Saturday was a GPS treasure hunt in downtown Monterey where teams of six competed against each other to find all the clues and get to the last location before anyone else. Our leader was a visually impaired man who just so happens to be the President and CEO of Sendero Group, the manufacturer of the GPS we were using. Is that why we smoked the other teams, arriving 20 minutes before anyone else at the bar, where we waited near a warm fire and drank cold margaritas? But the best moments for me were when I got to spend time with my classmates, catching up on our lives and our teaching jobs while sharing wine and champagne. I've missed everyone so much! It's like we're part of a submarine crew, a small group of highly trained people sharing very specific experiences that hardly anyone else can really understand.

There was a raffle to raise money for the scholarship fund, so I donated four copies of Traveling Blind. As I was sitting in the audience listening to a speaker talk about the pros and cons of using GPS on a smart phone, it suddenly hit me how much my life has changed since the first time I was at this conference. Last time I was a publisher sitting behind a table covered in copies of Laura's book. Now I'm a teacher, just like Laura.

I'll always be a book publisher; no way will I give that up. But it's very hard to make a living publishing books, so I teach to support my book habit. Thank goodness I love my "real" job. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

That's not my name! New Video from PRSMA authors Heavy Load

"They call me retard... they call me mental... they call me special... THAT'S NOT MY NAME"

Right on!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween, from Medusa

Medusa pumpkin carved by Ray Villafane. See more of his creations at

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coffee with my muse

"It's about time!" my muse says when she sees me sitting at the kitchen table typing away at my lap top.

"Hmmmm...." I mumble, still fixated on the screen.

She picks up my Wonder Woman coffee cup. "You're writing again."

"Trying to..." My voice shows how annoyed I'm feeling, but as usual she doesn't seem to care.

"Your coffee's cold." She takes a sip. "And you didn't put enough cream in it. You know I like a lot of milk in my coffee."

I stop typing and look at her. "Who's coffee?"

"You need a warm up." She crosses the room to the black and gray pot half filled with dark, strong coffee and pours some into my mug. Then she opens the carton of milk I left on the counter and fills the mug to the rim. Sipping, she sighs. "Perfect."

"Who's coffee?" I ask again.

Sitting at the table beside me, she drinks deeply and then nods at my lap top. "What are you working on?"

"The kids book."

"Good. I'm very excited about this project. It's a great subject."

"I'm glad you approve."

"I do. And then what?"

"Once this is done I need to finish editing the new manuscript for the press."

"Wonderful! And then?"

"I finish my play."

"Excellent. I can't wait to read it. And after that?"

"I finish my coffee." I take the mug out of her hands and hold it tightly.

She raises an eyebrow at me. "Touchy."

"Did you need something?"

"Just seeing what you're doing."

"I'm writing. Isn't that what you wanted me to do?"

"Yes. But I'm making certain you're really writing and not just commenting on Facebook."

"Facebook can be very stimulating."

"True, but it's not writing." She taps my laptop. "This is." Rising from her seat she smiles at me. "Carry on."

I set my mug on the table and start typing again, but I've lost my train of thought so I have to pause for a moment. Reaching for my mug, I realize it's gone.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Introducing the newest Medusa's Muse author

Right now I am preparing to edit a brand new manuscript from a brand new Medusa's Muse author. This is why I created a book publishing company: discovering new authors and fresh voices with a passionate story to tell. I've got my reading glasses on, my lap-top battery fully charged, a fresh cup of coffee, the manuscript opened in Word and "track changes" turned to "on." My muse is eagerly peering over my shoulder watching as I type notes inside the pages on my screen. Eventually she'll get a little bored; she finds editing tedious. But for now, she's just as fixated on this brand new Medusa's Muse book as I am.

The writer is Shannon Drury, author of The Radical Housewife. Click the link to explore her blog and get a taste of her writing. She's fabulous. A feminist housewife and mother living in Minnesota, and president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Her story is exactly the type I look for. It's honest, funny, passionate, and the author doesn't quiet fit within any category. If she's a housewife, how can she call herself a feminist? She gets criticism from both conservatives and liberals, which means she's perfect for my Muse.

Of course, I'll get a lot more editing done if my daughter would leave me alone for more than 10 minutes at a time. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Depressed? Enter a Drag King contest.

It was time to do something drastic. I've been living with depression for months and have had trouble writing even the simplest sentence. My press is languishing, despite the fact I've signed a new author, and my Muse is so bored she's threatening to move to Mongolia just for something to do. So I entered a Drag King contest.

The event was hosted by our local chapter of PRIDE to raise money for their community grants program. The theme was "Marie Antoinette" and the hosts of the event wore elaborate 17th century French gowns with oversized powdered wigs. The stage manager wore a man's suit in the same style, complete with powdered wig and powdered face. The audience came in costume, some inspired by the theme and others simply celebrating Halloween. My husband wore a kilt and Valkyrie outfit, torpedo boobs, braids, horned helmet and all. I wore a blue velvet frock coat with lace cuffs and my shiny black boots, my hair slicked back. And then I drew a mustache and goatee using a .99 Wet and Wild eyeliner pencil. With my little round glasses I felt more "Sergeant Pepper" than French Revolution.

I performed to Depeche Mode's "Martyr" which gave me lots of opportunity to interact with the audience. Kind of sexy, very danceable, the song is all about giving yourself completely to love, even if it destroys you.

"I've been a martyr for love
And I will die in the flames
As I draw my last breath
As I close in on death
I will call out your name"

So much drama to work with! It was great. The audience cheered and waived dollar bills at me, tucked them in my boots and down my shirt, swooned when I knelt at the feet of one woman, laughed when I used my mic as a... lets just say prop. I had so much fun lip syncing and dancing it was hard not to leap on tables (they were plastic. it would have been a bad way to end my routine).

Judging was done by audience cheers, and the cheers were split between me and another woman in drag. Because it was so close, we had a dance off. I was already winded from my performance, now I had to dance one-on-one with a 24 year old girl who could dance circles around my tired 44 year old ass. I just leapt all in, acting cocky and sexy and wild.

And I won.

My Muse has agreed to stick around just in case I do something this much fun again.

And now I can't wait to get back to work on my play.

And start editing this new manuscript.

And blog more.

Yes, dancing in drag has definitely fired up my creativity. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The futility of art

Zine Fest was... in the words of a regular vendor, dead. The building was packed with tables and people trying to get a little attention for their artwork and zines. Teenagers stood next to stacks of hand-stapled zines full of angst ridden ink drawings. More polished and professional comic books with vibrant colors and bizarre characters competed with glossy photo books. A young woman was giving away her zine, "Shards of Glass in my Eye," for trade or a compliment. A few authors tried hard to sell their self-published books, but were mostly lost in the clutter of Anime tchotchke and hand-made jewelry. We were there, sitting at a table with Medusa's Muse books and a mannequin wearing a "Punk Rock Saved My Ass" t-shirt.  Charles Gatewood shared some of our table, and beside him was V. Vale of Re/Search, our usual table mates from the previous two book events.

I walked the hall once to see who all was there and what they were selling, and I was really impressed with the quality of the zines, even the ones so obviously hand-made. The amount of talent and dedication was incredible, and at the same time, overwhelming. At every table sat yet another eager artist with a brilliant idea, trying hard to meet my eyes, hoping I'd buy one of their creations. It was too much. After 30 minutes of wandering I practically ran back to my own table to hide, unable to look at one more beautifully drawn image. They're all so desperate. Do I look like that, sitting here at my table watching the few visitors walk by? Are they thinking the same thing I did? Oh no, another artist looking for validation.

Despite the long hours, hard work, costs and sometimes sleepless nights, we keep creating. We all have ruthless muses who demand blood sacrifice, and only a finished page or completed painting will appease them. And even though occasionally we all end up sitting behind tables at festivals trying to sell something we made, while being intimidated by the guy next to us who made something so amazing we feel like hacks, we keep trying. Which is a good thing.

What's my point? I guess I'm just acknowledging the futility we artists are forced to live with. We create something we're passionate about, send it into the world, and are then crushed by the deafening silence from others. Half the time, nobody gives a shit. The other half of the time, people find it good but only three of those will actually pay you for your work. No wonder writers tend to drink.

Stare futility in the eye and tell it to piss off!

You're an artist; if no one buys your book at a crummy little book fair, so what?

And if a half-wit publisher like me sends you a rejection letter, do what Henry Miller did and hang it on your bathroom wall as backup toilet paper. Or was that Hunter S Thompson?

Futility is the vampire of creativity. Sharpen your stake to scare it off.

And keep working.

Monday, August 29, 2011

No more submissions accepted in the Summer

That's going to be the new policy here at Medusa's Muse: no submissions accepted during the Summer months, from June until September. I received four queries this summer, of which I declined two. I requested the other two send me their complete manuscript, and I am STILL trying to finish them. Those poor authors have been waiting 2 months. In the publishing world, that ain't long to have to wait for a decision. I once had to wait 7 months for an agent's response after I sent her my complete manuscript. 7 months of checking the mail like there might be a magic spell on the box; could create good things, could be a bomb. After all that time, she complimented my writing, but turned down the book. Talk about a kick in the gut.

Because I know what it's like to have to wait for a response from an agent or publisher, I try to respond to all queries within a month, but obviously that doesn't happen in the summer. When my daughter is out of school, book publishing comes to a screeching halt. Nothing else gets done around here either (you should see my yard... yikes). Rather then get frustrated or resentful, I've decided to cut back on the hours I devote to Medusa's Muse during the summer.

Summer is over now... or at least, summer vacation is over for my daughter... so here I am, back in the publishing chair. I've dusted off my lap-top, created a new to-do list (how the frell did it get so long?), ordered more books from the printer and some t-shirts from the designer. Zine Fest is next weekend and I'm eager to meet readers and sell some books. Maybe I'll find a new writer with a great story while I'm there.

Speaking of, I'm getting excited about the submission I'm reading now. Time to finish it and decide if this is something Medusa's Muse can publish. The writer is waiting.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blog 2 Print

Blogger is advertising a service called, Blog 2 Print, with which you can turn your blog into an actual, bound book. Out of curiosity, I decided to give it a try.

You can choose which posts from your blog you'd like, or just choose all of them, including pictures, and then the program does the page layout and creates a numbered table of contents. I decided to publish the first year of my blog, which turned out to be about 30 pages in the book, for a cost of around $20.00. I designed the cover, then decided on the paperback version, rather than hardbound, to save money. I wanted to see the quality of their cheapest option.

Overall, I'm pleased with the results. The finished book looks like an 8" by 11" chapbook and the paper quality is great. The images are true and crisp. It's nice having a bound version of my blog to read and see the progression over time of my posts and events, much easier than clicking on "older posts." I think this could be a really nice option for people who have a blog for their poetry or artwork (there's a book option for blogs that are primarily images) and want to create a chapbook to show to possible editors. This isn't a cost effective option if you want to make a lot of books, though. $20.00 per book is a lot of money for a chapbook to sell to readers, but for gifts or to show off your blog at conferences, it's a great option.

There may be other options out there for a better price per unit, so I'll do some research. Do any of you know of other Blog 2 Book type services?

Friday, July 22, 2011

another reason to hate my muse

I let the kitchen door slam behind me as I walk outside into the heat. Squinting, I see my Muse lounging in a hammock in the sun, wearing a gold, string-bikini so small I wonder why she bothers.

"Will you give it a rest, for frell's sake!" I yell.

She lifts her oversized designer sunglasses from her eyes to stare at me. "What?"

"Stop giving me all these damn ideas! You know there's no way in hell I'll ever be able to write them down, let alone complete any of them!"


"So? It's summertime! Queen Teen is out of school. I hardly have time to pee."

She shrugs and puts her sunglasses back on. "That's not my problem."

"Yes it is, so knock it off.  Stop sending me images of Art Deco living rooms and single-wide trailers and rainbows and Depression Era music and Johnny Depp impersonators and fan dancers and everything else you like to conjure while I'm busy taking care of my daughter and cleaning this house."

"Again, it's not my problem. I am supposed to send you those ideas. You are supposed to write them down. Whether or not you think you have time to do so is not a consideration."

"God, I really hate you sometimes!"

She smiles. "I know."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summertime Writer's Blues

With just 37 hours to go the Amsterdam Project needs only $600 to make their goal and get their project off the ground. Please, support DIY and Medusa's Muse authors. Go to the Kickstarter page to make your pledge. If everyone just gave a buck, the Amsterdam Project would be green-lighted.


Today is July 18th, and I have written exactly 11 pages since June 20th. 11 frickin pages. My hand is healed enough to type for short periods of time, but my injury isn't what's stopping me from working on my play or my essays or my short stories or even my blog.

My daughter is out of school for the summer. There will be no writing.

I love my daughter, challenges and all. She has multiple-disabilities, including mobility problems and deaf-blindness, so typical summer activities like summer camp and swim team aren't options for us. She's also very bright, and hates the heat. I use all of my creative energy finding ways to keep her entertained in the house, but by mid-July we've run out of ideas. I'm sure I'm not the only parent feeling the pain of a house full of bored kids, even without contending with disabilities. And if you're a creative type like me, I'll bet your kids are watching a lot of movies and playing a lot of video games.

Stop feeling guilty and go write something.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Lacing my fingers together, I straighten my arms forward, feeling the tightness in my fingers. There's a twinge in my right thumb still, but the swelling is down and the pain reduced to a slight ache. I release my fingers and wiggle them one by one. My right hand is weak from being encased in the brace for weeks. But I'm happy to see that I can type again, although it still feels awkward and I keep making mistakes. Tricky to type without using your thumbs.

Writing is a lot like running; the more time that passes between runs, the harder it is to get back into it. My brain feels as slow as my hands. What do I want to write about? Why has it become so difficult to write one paragraph? Remember when I could write several blog posts for both blogs in one sitting? That was a long time ago. Now I feel like I'm starting from the beginning again, learning how to form complete sentences and compact ideas.

Not writing has given me plenty of time to plan new projects for Medusa's Muse, and I've received some interesting submissions, one that was down right excellent. I have also been rethinking one of my projects that has become a logistical nightmare, and I believe I've found a solution. It will still be tricky doing long distance interviews with elderly people who don't use the internet, but I'm passionate about this book, and with help from Rick, I can manage. It'll just take longer than I planned (doesn't it always?). Jane's anthology is progressing well and she's received quite a few well written pieces.  And the YA branch of Medusa's Muse has it's first manuscript in development, a novel being written by Rick and I. 


Young Adult books, the hottest market in books right now. People complain that kids aren't reading, but they're wrong. It seems the only people reading these days are kids, especially teenaged girls. I have a lot of homework to do to understand the needs of this market, though, and luckily I have two friends who write for YA to help me. What do YA readers want from a book? Besides just the requirements of the general YA market, I need to understand the needs of YA readers who also have disabilities. For that, I need to find some young adult readers to provide feedback while a book is being written. I have a pretty good idea of what kids with disabilities deal with as they enter their teens from my experience with my daughter, but she's just one kid. I could use a few more kids to let me know what they want to read. 


My own writing has been slow, but I did finally finish my first full length play and submitted it to our local theatre company for a possible staged reading. It took three years of revisions to fix the ending, but at last it feels complete. Wish me luck.

Okay, that's enough typing for now. Don't want to over-do it on the first day. Again, like running, you have to pace yourself or you'll cramp up and have a set back. I don't want to be so sore tomorrow I can't write again. 

But before I sign off, do you have any good YA book recommendations?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Book Review - Reclaim Your Dreams

Because my hand injury has blessed me with more free time (trying to stay positive, people), I was finally able to read Reclaim Your Dreams, by Jonathan Mead. It's been sitting on my virtual reading stack for a year, ever since I asked him for a review copy. Creative people who are able to follow their artistic dreams and still keep a roof over their heads inspire me; it's the impetus behind the creation of Medusa's Muse.

Reclaim Your Dreams provides a simple, step-by-step, plan for discovering what your passion really is, and how to overcome the roadblocks that prevent you from living that passion. This concise ebook is full of practical advice and exercises to help you stay focused, written with a personable and entertaining voice. But this book doesn't just tell you to lose the fear and take the leap; it asks the hard questions too, like what are you willing to give up to live your dreams? What kind of lifestyle changes are you willing to make? What are your personal values?

What sets it apart from similar books on personal development is how concise it is. Jonathan Mead writes passionately about the subject, but doesn't wander off into long-winded personal stories or diatribe. He really does show how simple, and yet how difficult, changing your life can be. When I started reading, I would occasionally roll my eyes and think, "Yeah, right. But what about...?" As if reading my mind, in the very next section he would answer my question and ease my skepticism. He validated my trepidation about the process while also showing me that the process he created really can work.

This ebook is meant to be used as a tool, not just a book you read and forget. The formatting and links  make it easy to use and find the information you need. After you've read the ebook, you can keep it with you on your smart phone and read different sections and meditations to help you stay on track. And Jonathan Mead's website, Illuminated Mind, is filled with more tools and articles supporting the exercises in Reclaim Your Dreams. Plus, the author appears to be available for any questions and concerns the reader may have. He is passionate about helping others.

E-book available from the website.

Have a favorite book that keeps you inspired? let me know in the comments section.  

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Swim in other people's words

"I've decided that you are far too exhausted to create anything right now," my Muse declares while she watches me struggle to type without the use of my right thumb.

"I'm okay. I'm getting used to this." I adjust the sling on my hand. "It just slows me down is all."

"I'm not talking about your hand, although that is the most apparent symptom of exhaustion."

"Really... I'm fine."

"Stop typing and look at me."

My hands freeze above my keyboard and I am suddenly aware of the acute throbbing in my thumb. Swiveling my chair around to face her, I pretend not to feel any pain. "What do you have to say?"

"You have that look in your eye, the same one I saw on Frida's face when she stopped sleeping because she couldn't stop painting."

"You were Frida Kahlo's muse?"

"No. I am friends with her muse and I visited from time to time. She's not the only one. Sometimes you artists push yourselves too far, as if you think you're going to run out of time to create something."

"You're the one constantly nagging me to keep writing."

She sighs. "It's true. I've pushed you too hard, I fear. I was simply trying to keep you writing despite the ridiculous amount of time you spent in graduate school."

"It wasn't ridiculous!"

"Let's not argue about that. You're missing the point." She holds out her arms to me and I stand, taking one of her hands in my good, left one. Leading me to the mirror, she says, "Look at yourself."

I see the dark circles under my eyes against my too white skin, the lank hair, the dry lips. I see the weariness in my dull eyes looking back at me in the mirror. Looking down, I see my right hand encased in a black brace, the swollen thumb isolated for protection. More than just my hand, I feel how much every muscle in my body aches from fatigue.

"What do I do?" I ask.

My muse smiles. "Rest."

"Not gonna happen. I'm a mom."

"Rest your mind. Don't worry so much about writing or revisions or deadlines. Swim in other people's words for a while and soak them up. Take in creativity, because your own energy reserves are on empty."

"But I have two pieces I have to write."

"Write them next week if you must, but don't start any new projects. You need time to refuel that vast pool of artistic energy you normally have. Anything you try to create right now will be utter crap, anyway. Plus, if you don't let your hand heal, you'll be in much worse pain and unable to write at all."

Looking back at my reflection, I murmur, "Swim in other people's writing..."

"Yes. Look at that stack of books you've been wanting to read." She nods her head toward the 30 books I have stacked in an uneven tower leaning against the end of my bed. "Read three of those before you even think about revising your play."

"But I have so little time and so many ideas..."

"Pooh! You have plenty of time. You're only 44. Why are you trying so hard to burn out before you're 50?" She leans her hands against my dresser and stares into the mirror, her eyes narrowing as she looks at me. "And lets not forget who gives you all those ideas. If you ignore my advice to rest, I won't help you with any of them."

"That's blackmail!"

"Call it what you like." She walks to the stack of books and picks up The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show. "Start with this."

I catch the book she tosses me.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

This is gonna slow me down!

Ever tried writing without a thumb? Tricky!

The worst part is I don't remember hurting it. I have a terrible feeling it's related to my ongoing problem with tendinitis in that thumb, but it's never been this bad. My thumb is swollen and throbs from my nail to my palm. I've tried resting it but it's a little hard to do with my daughter who sometimes uses my thumb as a handle to support herself with (not my idea, but it seems to be the easiest thing to grab when she's falling). 

I'm taking this as a sign that I should read more and write less. I've got a stack of books and many blogs I've been wanting to read, so it's the perfect time to do so. Got a good blog I'd enjoy?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I graduated from San Francisco State University last Saturday. I needed to put a great big metaphoric exclamation point on the end of my university experience, so I walked with 2000 other graduates dressed head to toe in purple. I sat in the blazing sun listening to speech after boring speech on a jumbo-tron because the actual speaker was too far away from me to see. The stupid cap kept sliding off the back of my head and the "hood" all masters candidates wear continued to choke me, despite my heavy ring of keys I'd attached under my robes to hold it off my neck. The only one in my O and M class who decided to walk, I felt a little lonely surrounded by large groups of celebrating students from other departments. But at last I got to walk to the podium,  get my bright purple envelope (they send the actual diploma in the Fall) and shake the hand of a University chancellor. For those sixty seconds, I was buoyant; I could have flown above the heads of every single person crammed into the stadium on the wings of my bright purple robes.

I finally feel done.

I've spent the week catching up on Medusa work, but mostly I've been sitting quietly thinking about the day I got my Masters Degree. Now and then that feeling of completion fills my body and I have to stop what I'm doing and look around at the world. Nothing has really changed... except me. I reached my goal. I am free.

There's nothing else to prove. No other challenges on the horizon. At least not today.

My muse is eager to put all that drive and energy into creativity again, but for now, I want to rest. I want to plant my garden and clean up my yard; read a book; watch old movies; dance; play princess dominoes with my daughter; cook; sit in the sun with a glass of wine; kiss my husband.

I want to live.

Don't worry, Muse. I've never been able to resist you for long. And besides, didn't I just write you a full length play last month? Give me a break for a few weeks. I promise, Medusa's Muse will prosper and thrive and my own writing will flourish. You'll see. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

"where" and "wear"... f**k!

Mother-F***er!!!! Did I really write "What should I where?" Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I did write that. It was the title of a post for my other blog, Gravity Check, in which I was writing about my graduation from SFSU and wondering what to WEAR with a purple cap and gown. This isn't the first time I've written something so wrong, and I'm afraid it won't be the last.

I'm a publisher for frell's sake! I'm supposed to know better.

Occasionally I get a friendly email from Jane, or another friend who is a grammar girl, pointing out some mistake I made which (that?) would be completely obvious to any 4th grader, but slipped right past my editing consciousness. Each time I blush with shame, because it's always something really stupid, like mixing up "where" and "wear." Why the hell can't I see it in my own writing? I see it just fine in other people's writing, but not my own. Why am I so blind?

I realize it's because I don't actually see the words I'm writing; I'm writing down what I hear inside my head. I see the pictures I'm creating, not the words I'm writing. I do the same thing when I read. The book's scenes play in my mind in vivid technicolor, but I have no idea what is actually written. I can't remember quotes or facts or page numbers, I remember the smell of the breeze coming through the kitchen window and how the woman felt when she saw her cat carrying a baby mouse in his teeth. When I'm editing, I'm paying attention to the actual words, so I'm able to catch mistakes writers make (the easy ones, at least. Some of the more esoteric grammar rules fly right over my head). You'd think I'd pay attention to the words I'm writing as I write, but if I do, I lose the images in my head I'm frantically trying to write down. My words are like paint on a canvas all mixed together to create a scene. They blend and shape the picture, but I can't break the individual strokes apart to see how the picture is made. So I'm stuck writing "where" when I mean "wear." I only catch the mistake later, or if I don't, I hear from a friend.

Seeing just the image isn't a bad thing all the time; I'm able to take in the entire piece and see how it flows together, or where it stops. I can find the thread of a story and follow it, tying all the disparate threads together until they interlace into something beautiful.

I'll probably keep making ridiculous mistakes, and Jane will have to keep coming to my rescue (thank you Jane, and Maggie, too). People will keep shaking their heads, wondering what kind of publisher I am if I can't tell the difference between "where" and "wear." I'll keep trying my best to see the mistakes before I press "publish post," but more than likely, I won't catch them until three days later when the alarm will finally go off in my head that something isn't write... right!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Draft Revision

I am proud to announce that I won Script Frenzy!!!! 

What did I win?

Wait for it... (drum roll please)

(horns tooting)      A year or two of revisions!     (crowd cheering)


Wouldn't it be great if we could just write something brilliant in the first draft when we're energized and excited about it? Instead, the first draft is 95% crap, at least mine always is. The first draft is usually a collection of disorganized scenes and a cast of underdeveloped, whiny characters who don't know what they want. The beginning is typically weak, full of exposition and back story; the climax good, but doesn't include all the elements it needs to be a true climax; and the ending unsatisfying. Writing dialogue is my strength, so it's lucky that this time I wrote a play rather than a novel. But it's still going to take a long time to get the language right for each character, and for the time period (I don't think an upper-class woman living in the 1930's would say "cool").

Revision is exhausting, because you can see what needs to be done, but you can't figure out how to do it.   It's too early for me to get feedback from a reader, so I'll muddle through on my own, focusing on gaps in the plot, inconsistencies, and character development. I work on all three elements at once because they impact each other. As I develop a character, I may discover a motivation that will propel the action of a scene, which can effect the entire plot. The process works the other way as well: a change in the direction of the plot can change the way a character behaves in a scene.

This whole process can feel like remodeling a house of cards, though. Change one element and the whole structure could collapse, which is scary. The threat of collapse raises important questions: if the plot needed that one thing to hold together, what does that one thing need as support so a change won't make the whole story collapse?

But sometimes having the whole piece collapse can be a good thing, because it forces you to see your story in a whole new light. Starting from scratch isn't the end of the work (although it might make you feel like killing the work anyway). It is simply part of the process of building a good story. You will have much stronger characters and a better idea of what direction the story arc takes the second time you write it.

Okay, I admit it... I really hope this play doesn't collapse once I start revisions. I don't have the energy to write it all again from scratch. But I'm in love with my characters right now and the time period is a blast to work with. Think 1930's movies with glamorous women and big sets, lots of dancing and drinking (it is post-prohibition) and witty dialogue. These people are rich and desperate, pretending to have everything they want while the Depression starts taking things away.

The excitement from my first draft is still there. Here's hoping that excitement continues as I work on it for the next year...

... or two...

...or three.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

From Punk Rock to Duran Duran

A few weeks ago, Jane Mackay, my dear friend and Medusa's Muse copy editor, submitted a proposal for a new book project. The proposal was perfect, and could be an example to everyone on the right way to submit a book for consideration. She reminded me that as the publisher, I could say no, but after reading her proposal and understanding how passionate she is about the project, I had to ask myself if this was something I too could get excited about.

Which is how this non-Duranni is now publishing an anthology of stories from people who's lives were saved by listening to Duran Duran.

Duran Duran? Yep, that Duran Duran, the 1980's New Wave mega band. Sorry to disappoint Durannies out there, but I was never a fan. I liked some of their songs (The Chauffeur still makes me stop whatever I'm doing to listen), but I was more into The Police, preferring drums to synthesizers. So why would this Goth/Hippi-Punk consider publishing a book about them?

Because Duran Duran affected millions of people in the same way that Punk Rock did for others.

There is a huge community of people, mostly women (but not all), who survived trauma and tragedy by listening to the music of Duran Duran, and they remain just as passionate today as they did when they were teen-agers. That passion needs to be honored. They have stories to tell, stories of triumph and survival, which need to be heard. Music sustains and feeds the soul, and Duran Duran has managed to do so for 30 years (they're still playing today and just put out a new album).

We may lose some "cred" in the punk community for publishing a book about a super-popular New Wave band, but I don't give a rat's ass. Medusa's Muse is open to all view points and genres, as long as the story is strong and the writer passionate (although I may have to draw the line at Country. Sorry, I really hate that music).

If you are a Duranie (am I even spelling it right?) with a story about the way Duran Duran helped you survive when you were growing up, go to Jane Mackay's "Friends of Mine" Facebook Page for more information on submissions and focus.

I'd better start listening to more Duran Duran. 

Monday, May 02, 2011

How to make your muse insecure

My muse is staring at me while I work. She hasn't moved in ten minutes. Even her snakes are attentive.

"What?" I ask.

"I'm trying to decide if anything about you has noticeably changed."

Stopping my writing, I turn to stare back at her. "What do you mean?"

"You seemed so different on Saturday."

"Why? How was I different?"

"So... confident."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"No. I don't mean it to sound like a bad thing.... it's just..."


"Where did it come from?"


Moving closer, she sits on the edge of my desk while keeping her gaze fixed on me. "This confidence I saw. Where did it come from?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. You obviously didn't notice how scared I was. It was terrifying standing in front of all those people trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about. Thank God they were a good crowd and asked a lot of questions. If they'd just sat there staring at me the whole time, I would have thrown-up."

"But your fear didn't show. You stayed in control of yourself and that room and got your point across effectively. The audience learned from you and were inspired by you, which is what good teaching requires." She picks up a strand of my hair and strokes it between her fingers. "Even when you lost your train of thought a few times, you just took a deep breath and got organized. I've never seen you so... confident."

"Think my confidence is hidden in my hair?"

She laughs, but keeps playing with my hair. "No. I'm just wondering what exactly has changed about you."

"It felt good standing up there in front of those people sharing an idea with them. I liked it. And I believed that I had something to say that could really help them. That made it easier."

She lets go of my hair and leans closer. "Yes, this idea of yours... where did it come from?"

"I don't know... it's just something I was thinking about... about how many options there are to get published now and how someone can figure out what choice is right for them."

"But you created a step-by-step process for discovering that path. How did you know how to do that?"

"I just thought about it a lot. Thought about my own journey and how I figured out that I wanted to start a press. And I thought about how I've been trying to get an agent for my fiction, but it's so hard to get one. So what other options are available? Once I started thinking about that, the idea of the four step process just sort of... bloomed."

"Are you sure you didn't have help?"


"Yes. Help. From anyone, or anything..."

"I suppose I've had help from other writers and teachers over the years, but no one specific. I didn't steal the idea, if that's what you mean."

"Of course that's not what I mean. You're not the type." She stands, smoothing the snakes away from her face. "I want to know what inspired you."

"Are you asking me if I found a different muse?"

"No... of course not." Standing in front of the mirror, she pats her snake hair into place. "You would never do that to me." She pauses and glances at my image reflected in the mirror. "Would you?"

"Where would I find another muse?"

"They're about, always hunting for a new artist to inspire."

"I already have a muse."

"So. If one sensed that you were unhappy..." She turns around and looks at me with wide, sad eyes. "Are you unhappy?"

"No. I'm fine. Everything is fine between us." I stand and move closer, trying to be close enough to reassure her while also keeping my distance from her unpredictable, poisonous, snake hair. "Medusa, I don't need another muse. I have you, and I like you. Even if you're a bit hard to work with sometimes, we both know I've created my best work since I've been working with you."

She nods. "I'm glad. Because I like working with you."

"It would be nice to hear it now and then."

"Why? If I didn't like working with you, I'd be gone."

That's my muse. Forever kind and supportive.

She pulls back a snake that is slowly inching closer and closer to my head. "Are you sure no one else inspired you?"

I hold a hand to my heart. "I swear."

"Good. But just to be sure, I'm going to look around and see if anyone else is trying to get a hold on you. You may not even be aware if another muse is attempting to take control."

"You make it sounds like a pack of vampires out to get me."

She smiles. "Who says we aren't?"

Who indeed?

"But first," she says, taking my arm and leading me to the couch. "You must tell me all about this process of yours for finding your publishing path."

"Didn't you hear enough on Saturday?"

"I want you to tell me again. Slowly. I find it very intriguing."

"Well, first, you have to look at your work and decide why you're writing and who you're writing it for. Then..."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The LitFest Class was a big success

Today was LitFest and I am pleased to report that my class on planning your publishing path was a big success. Great turnout, with excited people asking lots of questions. It was such a relief having people interact with me and share their ideas, rather than just sitting there starting at me with bored expressions. Sometimes the questions got me off track, but I was able to pull the conversation back to the topic pretty easily. At the end, many people thanked me and said they learned a lot and enjoyed the presentation. 

Unfortunately, Rick forgot to take pictures of me during the class, so I don't have any photos to show you. Oh well, he was a big help setting up and keeping things organized.

I think I've developed a good tool that is truly helpful for people. I'll write more about the 4 steps to creating a publishing plan in the next few days. Maybe I'll even expand the concept into an article or You Tube presentation. I'd love to give this class again soon. Where would be a good venue? Anyone know of some good, smaller conferences near the SF Bay Area who might like my class?

I got into the publishing business because I love books, but also because I want to help other writers, and this class feels like I've taken that goal a giant step forward. With a bit more tinkering, I will have a dynamite class. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Your writing holds the key

I've been working on my presentation for the "Framing Your Dream" class at LitFest this Saturday, revising my outline and narrowing down what needs to be said in my 30 minutes of talking, and I've realized a very important truth: everything begins and ends with the written work.

What you write and who you write for is where your passion lies. That passion is what will get you published. Nothing else matters, not the dreams of big contracts and pots of money, not the networking or the conferences you attend or the books on writing you read. Nothing is more important than the actual writing you do.

If you are not madly in love with what you write, then no one else will be either. If you're just writing to get published, then why should anyone care about what you're writing? You may as well just write a 300 page advertisement that shouts, "Look at me! See how great I am? I wrote a whole book!"


Your writing is your guide through the conferences, networking opportunities, query letters, pitches, websites, blogs, and eventual publication. The type of writing you do and who you write for will help determine the best route to being published. Everything else is just elbow grease... important, yes, but not the most important.

So look at what you write. Are you madly in love with it? Does it keep you up at night, sing to you in the shower, interrupt your thoughts at work? If it doesn't, then why are you writing?

And then look at your publishing dreams. Are you writing the type of book that can meet those dreams? If not, does it really matter to you? Can you stay committed to your writing even if it means you'll have a small readership and maybe not snag that big Random House brass ring?

This is what all writers need to think about, and what I'll be talking about at LitFest this Saturday. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

LitFest at Mendocino College, Sat, April 30th

Here is the official website with all the info for the Mendocino College LitFest, where I'll be teaching a workshop on finding your own unique publishing path. Follow the link to sign up, and check out all the other great workshops with teachers such as Jean Hegland, Jody Gerhman, Natasha Yim, Molly Dwyer, and more. The whole event is free, but be sure and sign up for the classes you want to reserve your spot. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Haiku My Heart Friday - Joy

Pull of gravity
lets go for just a moment.
Falling sets me free

This is a picture of my daughter, age 3, taken 13 years ago. I still hear her laughter as she jumps on my giant bed, that laughter made more precious because she uses a walker and wheelchair to get around. But for a brief, joyous moment, she pushes her self high off the bed, defying gravity and those silly legs of her's which won't support her properly. She still has a hard time walking, but she also still has that wonderful laugh. 

Read more Haiku at Recuerda Mi Corazon, and join in the celebration of words by writing your own haiku and posting a link to Rebecca's blog. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The publishing dream

Next week, April 30th, I will be teaching a mini-workshop at Mendocino College LitFest about defining your publishing dream and making it a reality. So many of us write the book and then think if we pound on enough doors eventually one will open, allowing us to enter the world of Literary fame and fortune. We'll join the likes of Amy Tan and David Sedaris, Sharon Olds and John Updike. Maybe we'll even be included in the hall of fame with Mark Twain and J.D. Salinger. 

I admit, I want that too. I dream of being the kind of writer people discuss how brilliant I am at dinner parties, and that publishers throw gobs of money at. I want NPR to interview me and Time Magazine to put me on their cover as the greatest writer who ever lived. 

Probably not going to happen.

I mean maybe... you never know what the future will hold. One of those novels buried in my bottom desk drawer could be the hidden gem to bring me fame. It could happen to you, too. Alas, the odds are not in our favor. 

The good news though, is that it's even easier to be published now than ever. Don't get snobby with me and say, "Being published by a micro-press, or (shudder) self-published isn't really being published at all." 

Stop right there, because you are full of shit.

Seriously, if you hold fast to only that one dream of being legitimized by Random House, you might as well stop sending out those query letters and save money on stamps; bury your head in the pages of your manuscript and spend your days dreaming. 

Today, getting your work out there to the reading public has never been easier. You are free to make your own way, thumb your nose at the crumbling halls of the big publishing houses (who are in as bad shape as the music industry), and take control of your future as an author. Deciding how you're published depends on what you dream of.

First, let's acknowledge that we do indeed want that three-figure advance, three book, deal. But what is plan B? That's where you find the route to seizing your publishing dream. Your own personal Plan B... actually, let's call this Plan P, for "Published." Your personal Plan P will show you what you need to do to get published.

For example, let's say you really want to make a living as a writer. You've got a three book Fantasy series living with the candy wrappers in your top drawer, and you'd really like other people than your grandchildren to read them. You've got a little money set aside you could invest in marketing your books, but you don't want to self-publish. Instead of only focusing on the big houses, find some smaller, e-book publishers who are willing to take a chance on a new writer. There are many on the internet now, and with more and more e-readers being bought, there's a strong need for new books to read. Many of these publishers also sell print copies on a print-as-needed basis. The only way to stand out from the pack of ebooks is through marketing, which luckily you've got the money to go to conferences, buy some target ads, and hire someone to build a dynamite web site. You can even set up a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account and start networking with other writers and people who are interested in Fantasy. It's a lot of work marketing your books, but here's a little secret you may not realize: if you were published by a bigger publisher you'd have to do the same amount of marketing work. Many of those authors you see on book tours are paying their own way. 

But maybe you don't have the money to launch a marketing campaign. You can do a lot of marketing, but you'll need to do much of it yourself and primarily on line. Rather than a website you can set up a Word Press blog which allows you to customize your page for free. It will take more time and work than investing money in your book campaign.

Or maybe, that's way too much work. What will really make you happy is a few people reading and enjoying your book. Sure, it would be great if more people bought a copy, but a hand-full of people in love with your work is perfect. You want to devote your time to writing, not marketing. You don't give a fig about how many "likes" you have on your Facebook page, or even want a Facebook page, you want to write and get those pages out into the world for anyone who wants to enjoy.

Because when it comes down to it, just being able to write is the greatest dream. All of us get so caught up in being validated as authors, when we should be spending that energy on our craft. We should make damn sure we're writing our absolute best work, not worrying about how many people have visited our blog that day.

It's a balance, as all things are. We must balance the joy of writing with our need for publication. And if the need for publication steals the joy from writing, then we've given up too much of our creative selves on our dream of success.

When you think of being published, what is your dream? How much are you willing to give up for that dream to be real (money, time, writing time, sanity)? If you made all those sacrifices, will you still be happy? If so, then go for it. With hard work you can be published and will sell books. If not, then keep pouring your heart and soul into writing. Give your work away, or self-publish. All that really matters is that someone reads what you wrote, and finds pleasure in it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sitting at my booth at the Anarchist Book Fair

It's a sleepy Sunday in the fair building in Golden Gate Park. People slowly wander past tables covered with paperback books, with titles like, "Radical Mycology," "The Invisible Handcuffs", "Bomb the Suburbs", "Building a Broadcast Station", "Slaves by Choice", "Censured in 2011", and "Sieze the Media." The vendors watch the people pass with tired, eager eyes, as if pleading, "Please buy a book so I can pay for this table and get something to eat." Everybody is looking for a bargain and the vendors are trying to find the sweet spot between making a bit of profit and making a sale. Even I have slashed two dollars off the cover price of all my books, hoping the bargain hunters will pay. It doesn't just happen at this fair, every book fair is a gamble for the publishers. Only the t-shirt tables are selling anything.

A young couple pushing a jogging stroller with a sleeping baby walk past. There's a nerdy guy in baggy t-shirts and big black glasses several feet away from me, staring at a tiny punk girl in torn tights and a leather mini-skirt. A man in a police cap cruises by on in-line skates. A little girl (maybe 10) in blue hair stops in front of my table, does two cart wheels, and then runs off after her parents. I see many people in their sixties and seventies wearing political t-shirts slowly meandering from table to table, stopping to study every pamphlit. I get the feeling they've been fighting the political action cause for years and I wonder what they think of how the cause has evolved. One elderly man frowns at a young kid in a pho-hawk who is letting himself be dragged around by his dog. It's obvious the dog is in charge. I wonder what this guy thinks of the groups of young squaters and activists sitting outside in the sun selling homemade t-shirts, stickers, chap-books, and cup cakes. Some of them look like they live on the street, while others are clean and idealistic, but broke. The cops are watching them all. 

Next to my table is a man named Shawn selling beautiful hand bound editions of vintage anarchist writings, which he himself designed and bound. A tall blond woman in an expensive pink dress is talking to him. On the other side of me is Black and Red Press from Detroit, run by Elaine, an older woman who reminds me of a retired teacher with her intelligent eyes and warm smile. Not what most people would imagine as an anarchist. Across the hall is AK Press where my friend Bill dashes around keeping books and employees organized. Far across the hall, I see a man in a red t- shirt with a befuddled look on his face, sitting all alone behind his table, as if wondering why no one is stopping to look at the books he wrote and self published. Do I look like that?

So many urgent voices here. All around me are political books, pamphlets, anthologies, posters, stickers, t- shirts, ideas, conversations and organizations fighting their cause with passion! It becomes a roar of noise. Who needs help more, homeless youth or battered women? What is more important, animal cruelty or labor rights? Which cause do you join? Which fight can you support? All of them? It could make you immobile after a while, unable to fight for anything because there is such an overwhelming need. 

Yesterday, Saturday, the crowd was bigger and there was more energy. I sold several copies of the Punk Anthology and two of my How-To Publish book. My daughter's grandfather met me at my table and we chatted about working together on his life story and my press publishing it. He asked me why I'm interested. 

"Because not many people dedicate 80 years to a cause."

He grinned, seeming to like that answer.

More friends made a special trip to the fair to see us, including James, one of the authors from the Punk Anthology. Another friend brought me Gluten Free muffins (bless you!). My friend and fellow publisher J.L Powers was here on Saturday as well, signing copies of her new book, This Thing Called the Future. But today, it's just Rick and I, both sleep deprived and tired of staring at people walking past our table. I'm glad we came, though. I've met some interesting people and made a few contacts. A book fair really isn't the greatest place to sell books. Instead it's a great place to talk to people and meet potential readers and spread the word about your publishing efforts, your books, your ideas on writing, and at the Anarchist Book Fair, your political views. 

We'll be back to the Anarchist Book Fair next year, but I think we'll only stay Saturday. On Sunday, we'll go for a leisurely walk in Golden Gate Park and have a wine and cheese picnic. Even us publishers need a day off now and then.