Memoir vs. Autobiography: Does It Really Matter?

Happy November! For most of America, the transition from October to November heralds the end of trick-or-treating and pumpkins and the anticipation of Thanksgiving and the bigger winter holidays, whatever your family celebrates. For writers, however, November first means only one thing: the start of NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month! Our staff has covered this venerable tradition in the past, and we’ve got advice for you if you’re participating this year for everything on staying motivated  to the importance in staying connected with like-minded individuals to reviewing your work after the big rush . Here are some links to get you started:

This post is for the portion of our friends out there who swim in the autobiographical end of the writer’s pool or for those who are thinking about testing those waters this November. We are seeing more and more of a trend towards autobiographical submissions. This is becoming a very popular category of the nonfiction section, and why not? It’s easy to see why people might want to draw from their own personal histories to create an epic novel; there’s an endless source of inspiration to draw from. Anyone can do it, from celebrities to political figures to a person with a story to tell. But hold on a second: does anyone remember that moment in time back in 2006 when A Million Little Pieces was first hailed as a masterpiece then ultimately crucified as a work of fraud? Written by James Frey, the book was billed as a memoir, but on January 8, 2006, The Smoking Gun published an article exposing large portions of the book as fictionalized or gross exaggerations. Mr. Frey was interviewed by Larry King to defend his book three days later, but the real media storm happened on January 26 when Mr. Frey made an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was confronted by her and admitted to fabricating many sections of his memoir, which he had previously stated had been fact-checked by his publisher. This ultimately caused an ensuing controversy in which Mr. Frey’s literary manager dropped him and his publisher broke a two-book, seven figure deal. A legal settlement for readers who felt defrauded was also reached, and people were entitled to a refund of their book. That’s a massive consequence for someone who embellished the truth a bit. So where’s the line? Should writers be expected to remember every conversation they’ve ever had when they are recording memories to the page? Is any creative license allowed, or are we in danger of being sued by some disgruntled cousin who doesn’t remember the family reunion going down the way we do? How can we sort through what is fact and what is reasonable fiction? Luckily, there’s an answer to these questions and more.
Everything on this list falls under the umbrella of non-fiction. If I think of writing as dessert, then autobiography is cake. Memoir, narrative nonfiction, personal essays and roman à clef are all just slices of the same cake. Let’s break it down:

Autobiography: An autobiography can be distinguished from the others on the list as the most factual of the bunch. It is told in a linear fashion and should relay all the major life events of the subject in a chronological order. It concerns itself with the entire scope of a person’s life and all of the events, people, places and subjects that relate to a person’s existence as they move forward through their life, not just a few key years, events, feelings or observations of the narrator.

Memoir: This form gives someone more creative license. It can cover a few short years or a major event. Examples might include how someone survived their time in a concentration camp or how they overcame an addiction. It doesn’t have to be harrowing, but it may just focus on one developmental stage and is more likely to reflect strong feelings. It is generally less factual and more emotional. It is far less encompassing in scope than an autobiography. It is generally less formal and may have a more literary feel.

Narrative non-fiction: Narrative or creative non-fiction is a somewhat new and emerging genre. It draws on real-life scenarios, usually something journalistic, but incorporates elements of fiction to become a readable novel. According to literary critic Barbara Lounsberry, there are four recognizable elements to narrative nonfiction: the topics and events must exist in the real world (not in the mind of the author), there must be exhaustive research, all scenes must be in context, and it should all be presented in a literary style. Some examples of narrative nonfiction are The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Personal essay: This is exactly what it sounds like: an essay that is personal to you. It is generally just a short memoir. A great example of a classic personal essayist is David Sedaris.

Roman à clef: Roman à clef is from the French, meaning “novel with a key.” It began as a way for people to write an expose of famous social and political figures without the risk of reprieve. It is truth with an overlay of fiction. Names or identifying situations can be changed to avoid persecution, but the general public could still understand and enjoy the jab. This could be done for protection of the author or for satirical purposes. The Marquis de Sade often employed the roman à clef to skewer prominent religious and political figures of his day. Today, the roman à clef is still in use for various reasons, including satire, but it can also be used when you’d like to write a memoir but perhaps you would like a bit more creative license than your own story affords you. This is where certain authors—cough, Mr. Frey, cough—could simply have stated his work was inspired by real events. That little disclaimer would have saved him seven figures plus and a whole lot of embarrassment.

These are all just guidelines. Most of them bleed into each other. The important thing to remember is if you have a story to tell that you don’t fret which category you bill it as, but that you get it all down on paper, especially this November! A good editor can help you decide how your memories and your story fit together and what you’d like to call it. Happy writing!

November Events

While I’m sure everyone is excited for Halloween next week, it’s never too early to start planning for all the cool writing events you’ll be attending this November! As it is officially NaNoWriMo, there will be a lot of events this month that revolve around it! Hopefully you can find the perfect event to help you reach your goal! As usual, all of these events are free to attend! Happy writing everyone!

2nd – Tom VanHaaren- “The Road to Ann Arbor” – Ann Arbor

Tom VanHaaren will be at the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor to discuss and sign copies of his book; “The Road to Ann Arbor”! While there isn’t a lot of information on this event, it’s sure to be great! More Info through the link!

https://www.triumphbooks.com/tom-vanhaaren—the-road-to-ann-arbor–event-3443.php

3rd –  ‘5th Annual ‘A Gathering of Writers’ Fall Writing Conference’ – Ionia

This conference is jam packed with a variety of workshops and authors, all willing to teach you new skills! There are 5 workshops overall, each offering different tips and tricks about all aspects of writing! Click the link to see descriptions of the workshops, get more information and register!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/5th-annual-a-gathering-of-writers-fall-writing-conference-tickets-50442754637?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

8th – Lecture: Dr. David Dark – Holland

This lecture will certainty be interesting as Dr. David Dark will be discussing the points of post-apocalyptic novels, and how they challenge our morals. He will also be discussing Emily St. John Mandel’s ‘Station Eleven’ novel in a similar fashion! Click here to register and read more!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lecture-dr-david-dark-author-of-lifes-too-short-to-pretend-tickets-50455115609?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

9th – 10th – NaNoWriMo Write or DIE Library Lock-in – Traverse City

Contrary to the title, you will not die! This is an 18+ event held at the Traverse City Library, and participants will spend the night locked in the library to try to meet their NaNoWriMo goals! An interesting event indeed! Don’t forget to register and check out more information through the link!

NaNoWriMo Write or DIE Library Lock-In

10th – Motown Writers Monthly Meetup – Detroit

This group has been meeting since 2000, and is filled with all sorts of writers! A great opportunity to network with other writers and share opinions! Click the link for more information, and to see there other meetups!

Motown Writers Meetup Group

Detroit, MI
2,934 Writers

Hi everyone. This is a group for everyone in the Detroit Area (and Michigan area) who like to write. Whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, autobiography, or any other gener…

Next Meetup

#MotownWriters Monthly @Meetup

Saturday, Nov 10, 2018, 10:00 AM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

15th – NaNoWriMo Write in – Lansing

This is just one of many of the NaNoWriMo Write ins that are available in Lansing, the link contains the full list,  and other NaNoWriMo events that they will be hosting!

https://nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-michigan-lansing

18th – Detroit Public Library Welcomes Author David Baldacci – Detroit

Usually I try not to have any of the events in the same locations, but this event was too good to pass up! Possibly a once in a lifetime experience, David Baldacci will be at the Detroit Public Library to sign copies of his new book, ‘Long Road to Mercy’! Here’s the link to register!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/detroit-public-library-welcomes-author-david-baldacci-tickets-51486421272?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

26th – Barbara Oakley: Learning How to Learn – Port Huron

While this event isn’t directly linked to writing, Barbara Oakley will address how to handle procrastination, learning new material, and bad memory, all of which can cause you to put off writing! Registration and full description of the topics through the link!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-with-author-barbara-oakley-learning-how-to-learn-tickets-51106888078?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

30th –  You Wrote a Novel… Now What? – Ann Arbor

This is a NaNoWriMo wrap up event that will have Brigit Young as a guest speaker! A great way to learn about publishing and celebrate your NaNoWriMo accomplishments! Click the link for more information and other NaNoWriMo events!

https://nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-michigan-ann-arbor

 

I hope you all enjoy these events! Don’t forget to let us know if you go to these events, or others not mentioned, by commenting on this article! We can’t wait to hear from you! Happy November everybody!

Ask An Editor

As a writer, you have questions. It’s in your nature, so why fight it? Here are some of the most frequent questions posed to editors!

How do I get published?

This is definitely the number one question I hear as an editor, and there’s no simple answer, so strap in. If you’re not choosy about where you want to be published, it’s pretty easy these days. There are more literary magazines than I’ll ever be able to count, and each one has its own standards and methods of selecting work. Frankly, I’ve seen work I considered unpublishable grace the pages of quite a few digital lit mags, so if you can slap together a moderately cohesive story and email it to the right place, you could be a published author in no time!

There’s a similar trajectory for self-published books, which has given them a less than savory reputation, despite a handful of passionate, talented writers who utilize the format to avoid book industry runarounds. If you can finish a book, you can publish it cheap, but there’s no telling whether anyone will actually buy or read the thing.

Now, if you want to write a book that a reputable publishing house will release, or a story that a notable magazine will print, you’re going to have more work ahead of you. You will likely spend more time editing than you did writing the first draft, and then there’s the process of bringing in beta readers and editors, then querying publishers or submitting to magazines. Amanda has written an extremely helpful post that lines out the basic steps that you will take on your journey:

Eleven Steps to Becoming a Published Author by Amanda Wayne

Once you have a manuscript that can ascend to the echelon of major publication, you can also try to secure an agent. Agents are a writer’s best bet for bypassing book industry gatekeepers and placing your manuscript into the right hands. They usually take around a 15% fee, but if they can lock you into a deal with a major publisher, it’s usually worth it. Querying agents is a subject for another post entirely, and fortunately Catherine has run down some of the details here:

The Big Book Proposal Part One by Catherine Foster

What’s the deal with “show, don’t tell?”

Which do you enjoy reading more: a fast-paced crime caper, or the instruction manual for your television? This is “show, don’t tell” at its most basic. Telling is essentially listing the mundane details that most readers already understand, or don’t care about, where as showing puts the reader into the action, informs the feel of the scene, and lets them fill in the blanks with their imaginations. Like any other piece of writing advice, this is a suggestion, not a hard rule. While there are many specific instances in which you will need to break down and lay out some exposition, more often than not, your writing will be more effective if you let your characters show your readers what they’re up to.

Do I really need an editor? Can’t anyone be an editor?


via GIPHY

I get it, some folks think anyone who can operate spell check on their word processor can be an editor. While that might technically be true, a good editor does so much more than line up your grammar, fix typos, and correct spelling errors. Depending on when we are brought into a project, we may help with character development, plotting, overall flow, and sometimes brainstorming if an idea isn’t working and solutions are hard to find. We embed ourselves in the tone of each piece and, like literary chameleons, adopt the author’s voice, ensuring our edits will not stand out from the surrounding text. Essentially, we’re here for you. Whatever your project calls for, editors have the skills to work with you and make it the best it can be!

What’s the most common problem editors see in writing?

Beyond the usual grammar nitpicking, there are many other elements we’re on the lookout for, but I think passive voice is probably the most common. To be fair, it’s not always an issue, which makes it tricky! But what is it? Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action the subject of the sentence, rather than the performer of said action. Suppose your character is playing soccer. Writing “the ball was kicked by Josh” is passive. Read that out loud. It sounds a little clumsy, doesn’t it? “Josh kicked the ball” is more direct and natural. This is a frequent problem when writing in past tense, so stay vigilant and watch out for objects leading the action!

Here are a few more common issues to watch for:
Adverb overuse
Tense shifts
Word choice and repetition

How long does editing take? How much does it cost?

This varies from editor to editor, but we make it easy. Right on our homepage, you’ll find our hourly rates for projects over 2,500 words, and hour per word rates for anything up to 2,500 words. The latter also comes with a two week guarantee, and we will work with you and set a deadline for longer projects before we begin!

In addition, these posts by Catherine are extremely helpful if you’re looking for more in-depth exploration of some of the topics I covered above:

What Kind of Editor Is Right For You? By Catherine Foster 

Can You Afford A High Quality Editor? (The Answer Might Surprise You) by Catherine Foster

Have questions we didn’t answer? Drop them in the comments and we’ll address them in a future post!

October Events

October is almost here! September’s wrapping up, and everyone is getting ready for Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Oktoberfest and Halloween, but there’s still time for you to get in on some events that are more centered around writing!  As per usual, here are ten free events in Michigan that are sure to spark some writing creativity within you!

Sept. 15th – Oct. 20th – Give and Let Go Exhibition – Lowell

While this is a repeat from the September events, this unique exhibition will be going on until the 20th  of October! Don’t miss this chance to view an amazing exhibition that features Miriam Pederson’s  poems that accompany Ron Pederson’s welded works of art. More information is available through the link!

https://www.lowellartsmi.org/give-and-let-go

1st – Grand Blanc Authors Meetup – Grand Blanc

This is a group for authors in and around Grand Blanc who are trying to make a living in publishing, they will be meeting at the Grand Blanc – McFarlen Library on the first! For more information, and to RSVP, click that link!

Grand Blanc Authors Meetup

Grand Blanc, MI
127 Members

A group for authors who are wanting to make a full time living in publishing.

Next Meetup

Grand Blanc Authors Meetup

Monday, Oct 1, 2018, 6:00 PM
5 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

4th – Author Signing: Heather Havrilesky – Ann Arbor

Heather Havrilesky is the author of four published novels and a number of articles, she will be at the Literati Bookstore to sign copies of her books and chat. This is a great chance to meet her! The link contains more information!

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/234578/heather-havrilesky/#events

6th – Author Event: A Trail of Michigan Authors – Muskegon

This event will feature over 45 authors from all around Michigan! A very unique event put on by Barnes and Nobles, I doubt you’ll have another chance to meet this many authors in one day again! More information is available through the link!

https://allevents.in/michigan/author-event-a-trail-of-michigan-authors/20001123029231

13th – Indie Author Day Celebration – Lansing

To celebrate National Indie Authors day, Capital Area District Libraries will be holding a panel with authors and the people who make publishing a book a reality at their Downtown Lansing Branch. What an awesome way to celebrate this amazing holiday! Check out the link for more information!

http://www.cadl.org/news/2018/08/29/indie-author-day-2/

16th – Meet Author Sarah Miller discussing ‘Caroline’ – Dansville

Sarah Miller is a Dansville native, and will be at the Capital Area District libraries Dansville Branch to discuss one of her books, ‘Caroline’. The link for this one is a bit finicky, so here is a direct quote from their website, along with a link to the Cadl website;

Meet Author Sarah Miller (Adults)

Tuesday October 16, 2018 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Our group meets every month for a lively book discussion. This month we welcome the author of our selection–Sarah Miller. Her historical fiction novel Caroline explores the joys and hardships of the American frontier as seen through the eyes of Caroline “Ma” Ingalls, mother of Little House author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

http://www.cadl.org/

23rd – Grand Rapids Sci-fi Fantasy Book Club – Grand Rapids

This book club loves everything Sci-fi, and welcomes everyone! This month’s  book is ‘The Grace of Kings’ by Ken Liu, and is the first book in ‘The Dandelion Dynasty’ Series. See their Meetup page for more info!

Grand Rapids Sci-Fi Fantasy Book Club

Grand Rapids, MI
32 Geeks

Do you like to read science fiction and/or fantasy? We are a fun-loving book group that doesn’t get caught up with too many rules or labels. We read everything from Neil Gaima…

Check out this Meetup Group →

24th – Jeffrey Eugenides Author Talk and Book Signing – Detroit

Pages Bookshop and Wayne State University present Jeffrey Eugenides, who will be speaking about his multiple novels and to sign books! To register for this event, and to get more information, check out their Eventbrite page!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jeffrey-eugenides-author-talk-book-signing-tickets-49955246487?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

27th – Southwest Michigan Writers Conference – Niles

If you’ve been thinking of self-publishing, then this event is perfect for you! This event will feature many authors and professionals that will share their stories, tips and tricks about self-publishing! For more information, and to register, visit the website below!

Southwest Michigan Writers’ Conference

28th – 1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books – Traverse City

Inspired by the Detroit Festival of Books, this is a brand new event that will be happening for the first time ever! Don’t miss your chance to attend this special occasion! Visit their Meetup page for more information and a link to their website!

1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books

Sunday, Oct 28, 2018, 10:00 AM

Grand Traverse Mall
3200 S Airport Rd West Traverse City, mi

3 Members Attending

*This is NOT a BCD event* 1st Annual Grand Traverse Festival of Books! Sunday, October 28,[masked]am-6pm Grand Traverse Mall 3200 South Airport Road West Traverse City, MI Inspired by the DETROIT FESTIVAL OF BOOKS (aka: Detroit Bookfest), the Grand Traverse area now has a Grand Traverse Festival of Books! Celebrating all things Bookish – this even…

Check out this Meetup →

 

If you attend any of these events, make sure you tell us about them by commenting on this article! we’d love to hear all about it!

Have a great October everyone!

 

Fall 2018 Submission Roundup!

Hello, word-slingers! Are you ready to get your work out there to the unprepared populace? If you answered with any apprehension, we’re here for you—check our homepage for editing services and rates, and we’ll help you get your work into such good shape that you’ll be itching to send it out!

For those of you who are ready, those of you who just shouted “YES!” at your computer or mobile device, you’re in luck, as I’ve assembled and organized a collection of the most promising opportunities going. Some of these deadlines are coming up quick, so be vigilant. Please note that I have not listed any magazines that charge a submission fee but don’t pay for acceptances. I strongly suggest you avoid venues using this practice. If they’re making money on your art, you should be making money on your art.

Before you begin, and I can’t stress this enough, be sure to carefully read all guidelines before submitting anywhere! You may also be interested in reading my post on making the cut with journal submissions before you proceed.

Happy submitting, and don’t forget to read the guidelines!

Paying markets with no fees

Apex: “Do Not Go Quietly” socially conscious SFF anthology by some of the hardest working folks in genre fiction! 6 cents per word. Deadline: September 19th. https://apexbookcompany.moksha.io/publication/do-not-go-quietly/guidelines

Electric Literature: These icons of modern lit are open for a couple of weeks in two categories, so act fast! $100 total for selected poetry and graphic narrative work. Deadline September 20th. An essay on the book (or other narrative media) that almost killed you pays $60, with a deadline of September 21st. https://electricliterature.submittable.com/submit

The Puritan: Sleek Canadian magazine offering $20 per poem, $75 for fiction, $100 per essay, review, or interview. Deadline: September 25th. https://puritan-magazine.submittable.com/submit

Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores: Interesting and fun SFF journal, paying 6 cents per word. Submissions open September 21-28. https://cosmicrootsandeldritchshores.com/submissions/

Life After All: “An apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/pastoral apocalyptic LGBTQIA+ anthology.” $150 per piece, open until September 30th. https://www.lessthanthreepress.com/anthology-submissions/

Pseudopod: Hear your fiction in podcast form in the “Artemis Rising” horror event for women only! Very cool and forward-thinking fiction podcast. 6 cents per word, September 30th deadline. http://pseudopod.org/2018/08/15/artemis-rising-5/#more-7276

Nashville Review: One of only a handful of university journals on this list, traditional format with a refreshing approach. $25 per poem, $100 for prose. Now accepting translations! September 30th deadline. https://as.vanderbilt.edu/nashvillereview/contact/submit

Event: One of Canada’s finest! $30 per page of prose, $35 per page of poetry. Deadline: September 30th. https://www.eventmagazine.ca/submit/

Consequence: A magazine with a special  interest in the “culture and consequences of war.” $25 per page of poetry, $10 per prose page, $15 per translated page. Deadline: September 30th. http://www.consequencemagazine.org/submit/

Bubble Off Plumb: An off-kilter anthology of the odd and unsettling. 3 cents per word + royalty share. Deadline: September 30th. https://feralcatpublishers.com/bubble-off-plumb-anthology

Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime: Anthology on time and space “with themes of neurodivergence, queerness, and/or the intersections of neurodivergence and queerness.” 1 cent per word. Deadline: September 30th. http://autpress.com/2018/01/call-for-submissions-spoon-knife-4/

Tin House: One of the big ones, and they’ve extended their submission window to October 15th! Rates start at $50 for poetry and $200 for prose. https://tinhouse.submittable.com/submit

Fireside Fiction: One of the best magazines going! Top-scale pay, short reading periods. $100 per poem, open October 24-31. 12.5 cents per word for fiction, open December 15-31. https://firesidefiction.com/submissions

One Story: Exactly like it sounds, a slick magazine featuring a single piece of fiction! Acceptance gets you $500 and 25 contributor copies, so have your best, most polished work ready for this one. Deadline: November 14th. https://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=submit&pubcode=os

Zyzzyva: Beautiful, reputable magazine. No online submissions, snail mail only! Token to semi-pro rates. Deadline: November 19th. http://www.zyzzyva.org/about/submissions/

Lackington’s: Outstanding speculative fiction, opens December 2018 for “Voyages” themed issue. 1 cent CAD per word. https://lackingtons.com/submissions/

Zizzle: Flash fiction that appeals to all ages. $100 per piece. December 31st deadline. http://zizzlelit.com/submit/

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet: A true gem by the fine folks at Small Beer Press! No online submissions—snail mail only! 3 cents per word for fiction, $10 per poem. http://smallbeerpress.com/about/submission-guidelines/

Beneath Ceaseless Skies: They publish a very specific style of fantasy, but they do it very well. 6 cents per word, rolling submissions. http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/submissions/

Smokelong Quarterly: Flash fiction only, no deadlines. $25 per story. http://www.smokelong.com/submissions/guidelines/

No fee, no pay

Bridge: Cool opportunity for young writers and artists, as this magazine is only open only to contributors between the ages of 14 & 24. Contributor copy payment, deadline: September 30th. https://bridgebluffton.submittable.com/submit

Feels Blind Literary: Inaugural issue, looks promising, but they need exceptional work to put them on the map! Deadline: October 1st. https://www.feelsblindliterary.com/submissions

Capulet: Another opportunity for the young folks, open to women ages 15-29. October 20th deadline. http://capuletmag.com/submit/

Clockhouse: “An eclectic conversation about the work-in-progress of life.” Payment is a contributor copy, but it’s likely to be a good one. Deadline: December 1. http://clockhouse.net/main/submit/

Litro: Wide-ranging UK journal open for various themed issues—check specific guidelines posted for each one! https://www.litro.co.uk/submit/

Storm Cellar: One of the more engaging indie publications currently out there, rolling submission period. https://stormcellarquarterly.com/submit/

Loud Zoo: The socially conscious literary/arts journal from our sister company, Bedlam Publishing. Every accepted piece gets a complimentary edit from The LetterWorks! Deadline: September 30th, not accepting poetry this cycle. http://www.bedlampublishing.com/submissions.html

Small fee, paid publication

Nimrod: Ambitious journal open for a themed issue on the Middle East and North Africa. $3 fee, $10 per page up to $200. Deadline: December 1st. https://nimrod.utulsa.edu/manuscripts.html

Ploughshares: You’ve heard of this one, right? $3 fee, $45 per printed page with a $90 minimum and a $450 max. Deadline: January 15th. https://www.pshares.org/submit/journal/guidelines

Driftwood: A fairly young journal coming into its own. Fees from $2.99, pays $15 per poem, $75 for fiction. Rolling deadline. https://www.driftwoodpress.net/submit

 

See anything I missed that deserves a mention? Drop it in the comments! And read the damn submission guidelines!!!

September Events

Today is the last day of August, and while I’m sure that most of us are sad to bid summer goodbye, the beginning of fall doesn’t mean that the fun has to end! As per usual, here are this months’ picks of 10 free writing events in Michigan! To those fretting that this months’ list will be filled with premature Oktoberfest’s and Halloween events, I assure you that there are none featured this month! And as always, if there are any events this month, or next month, that you’ve either gone to or planning on attending, we’d love if you could comment and tell us all about them!

 1st – Mitchell State Park – They Call it the Mighty Mac – Cadillac

A good research trip for any writer, this event will feature information about the construction of the Mackinaw Bridge, what it means to Michigan, and a multitude of stories associated with the bridge.  The link below will direct you to more information and the location of this awesome event!

https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,,7-350–464822–evt,00.html

8th – Author/Artist David Small Presents: ‘Home After Dark’ – Kalamazoo

David Small will be at “this is a bookstore & Bookbug – An Independant Bookstore for all Ages” for this pre-release event. He will be signing copies of his new book, ‘Home After Dark’. There will be copies available for purchase, but the overall event is free to attend!  Visit this events Eventbrite page for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/authorartist-david-small-presents-home-after-dark-tickets-48165750055

9th – Kerrytown Bookfest – Ann Arbor

The 16th annual Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor, this event is a celebration of all things books, and will have multiple authors available to answer any and all questions you might have! Visit their Facebook page for more information;

https://www.facebook.com/kerrytownbookfest/

11th – Fiction for Foodies – Niles

The Niles District Library holds Fiction for Foodies every second Tuesday of the month, and what could be better than food and books? This book club features a potluck at every months’ meeting! Click the link to for more information on this book club, and to check out the other book clubs this library features!

Book Clubs

12th – Author Talk: Annie Spence – Grand Blanc

Annie Spence, author of ‘Fahrenheit 451: Love and heartbreak in the Stacks’, will be at the Grand Blanc-McFarlen Library to talk about writing her book, stories that she treasures and a variety of other subjects! There will also be the opportunity to get your copy of her book signed! More information through the link!

https://www.thegdl.org/grand-blanc-mcfarlen-library-events/event/6751-author-talk-annie-spence-grand-blanc-mcfarlen

15th – Oct. 20th – Give and Let go Exhibition – Lowell

Ron and Miriam Pederson present their exhibition, ‘Give and Let go’,  a combination of art and poetry. Miriam writes poetry to go with Ron’s welded and painted sculptors! An interesting way to gather ideas about writing your own poetry! This exhibition will be available for viewing starting September 15th, and the last day to view the gallery will be October 20th. Visit the link for more information!

https://www.lowellartsmi.org/give-and-let-go

18th – Lansing Young Adult (At Heart) Book Club – Lansing

A brand new book club for those who enjoy reading Young Adult books, this club is having it’s first meeting to decide what books to read while enjoying some good food! Meet great people who enjoy reading the same genre as you! More information on their meetup page;

Lansing Young Adult (at heart) Book Club

Lansing, MI
28 Readers

If you’ve ever found yourself browsing the “Teen” section of your local bookstore, love food and discussion, then this is the group for you! We will have meetings each month d…

Next Meetup

Punk Taco & Brainstorming!

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018, 6:30 PM
7 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

22nd – Mary Schmidt: Author Meet & Greet – Holland

Mary Schmidt will be available to talk and sign copies of her book; ‘Uncharted Waters: Romance, Adventure, and Advocacy on the Great Lakes’.  There will be lots of discussion about the Great Lakes, and other topics featured in the book! View the link for more information!

https://stores.barnesandnoble.com/event/9780061958736-0

24th – Self-Publishing 101 with Lisa Howard – Southfield

If you’ve been thinking about publishing your writing, this event is perfect for you! Not only does Lisa Howard have experience with self-publishing, but traditional publishing as well! Here’s the link for more information!

Self-Publishing 101, with Lisa Howard

 

 

 

 

 

 

28th – 30th – Festival of the Book – Harbor Springs

I highly recommend going straight to the website for information on this event! There is a huge selection of festivities available from all genres, along with a variety of authors that will be attending!

https://www.hsfotb.org/

As always, if you attend any of these events, please comment and tell us about them! Have a great September everyone!

 

 

 

 

Behind the Book: All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows by Ramez Qureshi (Part 2)

This is the second in a two-part series. if you missed part 1, click here!

Welcome back! Last month I promised I’d get down and dirty with prepress details and insights when working with traditional print houses. Depending on your book, it may make more sense for you to self-publish and use a print-on-demand service like Lulu, or Amazon’s CreateSpace, but for the first editions of All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows, we were on a mission to create a limited release hardcover that felt unique and had character, an artifact that Ramez’s family, friends, and readers could treasure forever. Whether you have written a book and are thinking about self-publishing, or if you are operating an independent publisher, I hope this clarifies some of the mystery behind bringing a book into the world.

As you may recall, we had a last minute print house swap, which led to some cover measurement readjustments. Now this was not only an issue we had to shovel onto our brave jacket designer, Jason Yocum, but I also had to retool the file for the foil stamping on the spine behind the jacket. Fortunately, we only went with a single hit of foil, but if you add stamping to the front cover, be mindful of additional costs.

Foil stamping on the book spine

While we’re on additional costs, are you ready for the big one? Our primary financial surprise came in the form of shipping charges for proofs. Due to some color matching issues, we had to get a second proof of the jacket. Two jacket proofs and one text proof cost a mere $5 less than we paid to ship the entire order of finished books! We were aware of the base price for proofs, but we did not know that the shipping would be expedited and the additional cost would be added to our invoice. If you’re on a budget and not crunched for time, you’d be wise to ask for more shipping options on your proofs.

Jacket Proofs
The difference is so slight, yet so critical!

Another thing to remember is that proofs are the very last line of defense, so do your side-by-side comparisons and knock out all those edits before you send those final files to the printers! We’ll be happy to take care of this for you—our rates are right there on our homepage. This is an important detail, because both printers and eBook converters will charge for additional edits, and those rates are nowhere near as reasonable as ours!

Digital editions are somewhat less complicated during these stages, but that doesn’t mean they require less attention. What’s that? Did I just hear you say, “But Josh, I’m not going to release an eBook?” Let me stop you right there. I don’t care how much of a physical book purist you are, you aren’t the one who will be buying all of your books (I hope), so offer eBooks to your readers. Still not convinced? Digital books are a necessity for a lot of people with disabilities, and are significantly cheaper, which is great for folks with limited incomes. Even if you’re a heartless bastard, you can’t deny that a bigger audience pool equals more potential readers, and why publish if you don’t want readers?

If that last part applies, maybe we can work on you being less of a heartless bastard in a future post…

Until then, BACK TO EBOOKS! There are several DIY options for eBook conversion, such as Calibre, but these programs are notorious for their steep learning curves, so don’t even click that link if you struggle with everyday apps. If you’re feeling bold and have a simple layout, Bookow has an automated eBook layout program that appears easier to navigate than most, but if you have any specific layout elements in mind, you’ll want some human input. Fortunately, you can get an eBook conversion done for as low as $200, just make sure you’re getting both .mobi and .epub formats. Remember Bookow? They offer custom formatting from $250, but ultimately we went with Bookmobile because of the relatively complex nature of poetry formatting. Hot tip—poetry eBook conversions cost more due to this complexity. Our eBooks came out slick thanks to Arna & the crew at Bookmobile, and I fully endorse both their work and their customer service!

As soon as you have a manuscript that’s ready to publish, it’s time to also start thinking about high-resolution file formatting for both print and digital. Once  you are in contact with your printer and eBook converter, start asking questions about files. If you’re not familiar with the deep and varied range of options available within PDF files, brace yourself, because both formats require specific types of PDFs with fonts embedded. Get measurements for EVERYTHING. Find out what file types each company needs for images and text. Our eBook cover had to be at least 300 dpi and a minimum height of 2560 pixels, so keep this in mind when you’re sourcing cover art as well! If you haven’t had any experience with digital design, you might be better off hiring someone to handle this for you.

At the very least, I absolutely recommend hiring a designer for the cover. This is one of the most discussed topics I’ve ever seen in the worlds of self and indie publishing, and while anyone can slap a title and author name on a stunning piece of art, that usually doesn’t make for a great book cover. Design as a trade has been so diminished by the wide availability of programs like Photoshop and even the MS Office Suite, that anyone who can navigate a computer thinks it’s as simple as stacking the required layers and making the text readable. I assure you, fellow do-it-yourselfer, that a trained designer has an understanding of how and why visual elements work that most of us couldn’t hope to grasp. Give them your money, it will absolutely help you sell books. The same suggestion applies to cover artwork. Self-publishing is plagued by bad book covers, and I’m willing to bet more than a few outstanding authors have missed their shot because despite what we’re taught, we judge books by their covers.

Are you forgetting anything?

Did you buy ISBN’s? You’ll need these before you can finish your cover and your title page, so get these early. You can only get them from Bowker and they’re not cheap. Buy a pack if you can, because your eBook will need its own number as well.

Did you get a barcode? There are lots of options out there, but I’ll mention Bookow again because we used their killer barcode generator. These barcodes meet all retailer requirements, are high-resolution, and the generator is free! Once I tested ours out, I made a donation because Steve at Bookow was super helpful when I inquired about poetry formatting, and this utility is just so good, you’ll feel like you’re stealing if you get these barcodes for free!

Want your book in the Library of Congress? Of course you do! You’ll need to submit some information to their website before you send your final files to your printer and digital converter, as your PCN number will go on the publication data page. It’s a little confusing, but read the instructions carefully and you’ll have it in no time.

There’s a lot to this process, so if you have any additional questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Now that you know all the details that made this book a reality, get a copy for yourself!

Buy direct from Bedlam Publishing
or
Buy on Amazon

Behind the Book: All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows by Ramez Qureshi (Part 1)

We at The LetterWorks were recently involved in the publication of the first book by Bedlam Publishing, an indie publisher and sister company to TLW. (Full disclosure: I’m the Editor-in-Chief over there!) That book is Ramez Qureshi’s All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Collected Poems, and I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss some of the behind-the-scenes action that we don’t often consider when reading, writing, or even editing these wondrous little artifacts we call books.

It all started with the pitch. Bedlam doesn’t typically consider book pitches, as we are a tiny, D.I.Y. operation with a budget equivalent to the contents of the space beneath your couch cushions. Under normal circumstances, we can’t afford the cost of printing … but this was no normal circumstance. Writer, modern thinker, and all around top-notch individual, Ali Eteraz (whom we published in the first issue of our digital art/lit magazine, Loud Zoo in 2014), reached out to us with a poet, a vision, and a budget. We were definitely interested, and once he told us about Ramez and sent us a selection of his work, we were on board.

Ramez Qureshi
Ramez Qureshi

Ramez Qureshi was an astounding person. Both brilliant and compassionate, he earned his master’s degree at the age of 19 from the University of Pennsylvania and tutored underprivileged children in the area while in school. He was an avid reader and loved the arts profoundly. In addition to poetry, he wrote and published several critiques of books and gallery shows. Shortly after his college graduation, he was diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder, and spent time in and out of institutions. Through his struggles, Ramez held tight to his love of poetry, and those closest to him have stated that poetry and the poets he befriended through his online and local communities kept him alive for a number of years. The world lost Ramez in March of 2001, a victim of suicide spurred by his illness.

Ramez’s family made attempts to publish his work over the years, and though progress was made, nothing quite panned out. When Ramez’s sister, Sofia,  met Ali, the gears began to turn once more. In the original plan, Ali was to act as the editor, making final decisions on selections and order, as well as writing the introduction. Unfortunately, just as the book was picking up steam, he was sidelined by personal projects and responsibilities, and had to walk away. After discussion with Ramez’s family, it was decided that we would proceed and I would take on a more active role. Nikki Moen and Catherine Foster (who pulls double-duty, working at Bedlam and The LetterWorks) jumped in to read through the thousands of pieces and start deciding which ones would make the cut.

At this point, Catherine’s role expanded into The LetterWorks territory, as Ramez’s family had a box of handwritten pieces that they wanted transcribed and considered for the collection as well. This box of poems doubled our pool, but Catherine worked dutifully and had them transcribed before we knew it! Attention: writers who love to compose longhand, we can help with those stacks of stories you don’t know what to do with!

As things started firming up, Nikki, Catherine, Sofia, and I went on a mission to find the perfect cover art. We scoured the web, reached out to artist friends, and passed images back and forth until we saw “Cosmic Love 1” by Artem Mirolevich on the fine art website saatchiart.com. When Sofia shared a dream she had had about an “art office” that was promoting an artist who used a parachute in his work, we knew we had it. Was it meant to be? Look at this cover and tell me it wasn’t!

All of Yesterday's Tomorrows cover
All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows cover

We hired the incomparable Jason Yocum to design the jacket, and he was a joy to work with, even when we had to switch print houses at the last minute, requiring all sorts of measurement adjustments. (Thanks ‘n’ sorry, Jason!)

Wait a minute, did you just say you switched print houses … at the last minute??

That is correct. After working out the numerous details of production with [NAME REDACTED], there was a sharp and inexplicable price increase. When I politely inquired about said increase, I was met with silence. Ghosted by the print shop … So, I went back to my bookshelf and noticed that some of the best looking tomes from small presses had come from Maple Press in York, Pennsylvania. I reached out, got a quote, and we were back in business!

I highly recommend Maple Press if you’re looking to produce a book that has more character than your average print-on-demand book. Ramez’s family wanted something that looked and felt special, so we opted for a short-run of hardcovers with heavy, off-white, recycled paper with rough edges; which Maple delivered exquisitely. They were easy to work with, always friendly and professional, and, well … look at these books!!

Once we had completed two rounds of voting on which poems were most likely to make a great collection, Sofia consulted Associate Professor of Literature and Visual Studies at NYU Abu Dhabi, Shamoon Zamir. Not only did he help with the final piece selection, he ultimately developed the thematic order of the book. He also made a strong case for the title poem, which we nearly left out. “All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows” (the poem) is a forty-plus page experimental behemoth that explores Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, a Marxism conference, the Popol Vuh, statements made at the end of relationships, and somehow, quite a bit more. Ramez himself described the piece as “a philosophical meditation on the dialectics of arts and politics.” You may understand our hesitation to include such an extensive, experimental piece, but of course Shamoon was correct. We placed it at the end of the book, and while it’s not a light read, it is certainly Ramez’s most ambitious work. It evokes a tangible movement, and while you may not know where it’s taking you, its pull is undeniable.

We had a table of contents. We had a cover. We thought we were close. We had no idea…

Check in next time for Part 2, in which I get detailed about the prepress process in hopes of helping prospective publishers avoid some of the headaches and financial missteps we faced! In the meantime, you can buy Ramez’s wonderful book in the special edition hardcover (includes free eBook!), or all digital formats!

Buy direct from Bedlam Publishing
or
Buy on Amazon

Your Editor is not the Bad Guy

 

Red ink bleeds across the page. Hard questions scrawled down the margins. Rewrite this whole passage? Really? Sometimes confronting your work after a thorough edit can be as daunting as running into Darth Vader in a dark alley.

 

“Editing might be a bloody trade, but knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too.” – Blake Morrison

 

Your Han Solo self might not think your beloved Millennium Falcon is in any need of repair, but you can’t see the entire ship from the cockpit. Here’s the thing: our minds see and feel the whole picture, and it’s incredibly important to recognize the many mini-jumps your brain makes when reading your own text that will be impossible for the reader to replicate. You know the protagonist inside and out, and it can be challenging to see where you’ve misled readers by providing incomplete or inaccurate information. You know it’s supposed to say, “He dashed over the log…” and your brain may not flag you that it actually says, “He dashes over the leg…” because it already knows what it should be. That’s what your editor is there for! Even the best of the best need editors, which is why the acknowledgements of practically every book published are practically gushing with gratitude for their editors!

 

Patrick Ness advises, “Learn to take criticism. Your first draft won’t be perfect, and it’s damaging to the book to think that it is. Every great book you’ve ever read has been rewritten a dozen times. This is the hardest thing to learn (trust me), but very, very important.”

 

A good editor will jump at light speed on issues with story arc and continuity in a developmental edit, or search with the uncanny precision of a Jedi for errant language in a line edit. The purpose of it all is to make your work the best it can be. At The LetterWorks you’ll find some of the most encouraging and gentle editing services out there, but they also strive for a letter-perfect edit. All the editors are authors themselves and fully understand the incredible honor it is to be entrusted with your younglings! It is precisely for that reason a manuscript may come back with some serious work to be thoughtfully considered and executed.

To reach publication, sometimes to even be considered for publication, your manuscript needs to reach a certain caliber. Even a vigorous plant is sometimes in need of some pruning to really let it shine and flourish. So take courage, and take up that pen. Let your editor be your ally.

May the “fourth” be with you.

 

 

Shame on Who? Taking the Shame Out of Self-Promotion

“Shameless self-promotion.” The phrase alone inspires dread in some, and often for good reason. Around every corner of the web, from social media to your favorite podcast, someone’s got something to shill, but does it always have to be such a cringe-worthy endeavor?

Let’s start by exploring where shame enters the picture. Does this shamelessness imply that you are incessantly slapping everyone in the face with your work regardless of interest or context? If so, it’s time for a new approach. No one wants to invest in a friendship or working relationship with a perpetual solicitor.

There’s also this lingering perception that creators should be ashamed of themselves for promoting their work. If you find yourself feeling this way, take a step back and ask yourself why you embarked on the project in the first place. Ask yourself why you followed it through to completion. Are you proud of the work you’ve done, or do you think it was all a big waste of time and energy? Was it a labor of love, or a financial necessity? Most writers take on less-than-glamorous gigs to pay the bills, and no one here will judge you for that, but it may be a better use of energy to save the sharing for projects that better represent you. If you can hold your work up proudly, then your promotion should be shame-free as long as you don’t overdo it.

While it can certainly be beneficial to plug your work online, your posts can quickly become tiresome, and the people you’re hoping to engage with will scroll right on by as soon as they see your name. Many creators view social media sites as nothing more than free advertising platforms, but without the genuine connectivity that keeps social networks going, your profile will not draw readers. Don’t assume people aren’t buying your thing explicitly because they are unaware of it. Writers tend to see a bump in sales when they mention their books about once a week online, but these are also people who already have a following, post frequently on multiple topics and engage in various conversations. There is no set scale for how much to self-promote, but less is more here. If you are able to curate interesting discussions, people will explore your other posts, find your books, and either buy them outright or at least ask you about them! Whether you’re worried about posting too much or not enough, a pinned post can serve as a passive billboard that can take some of that pressure off.

One approach that I see frequently is using a separate “author” page in addition to your main social media profile. I understand the attractiveness of keeping everything neatly compartmentalized, but I have my doubts as to whether or not this method is very effective. Writing is intensely personal, so even if you’re not writing memoirs, you are putting yourself on the page. Readers are often as interested in the writer as they are the story, which means you’re often selling yourself as much as the book, so this dissociation seems counterproductive. I feel similarly about adding the word “Author” to your name on social media accounts. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with it, but it comes off as performative, and like Amanda said, “Stop Aspiring to Be an Author and Just Be One!” Though the blogosphere is not as prominent these days, an alternative is to keep a blog or a Tumblr (a hybrid blog/social media site) to contain all your writing news and info that you can occasionally link to on your main social media profiles.

What about face-to-face promotion in the real world? Can you talk to people about your books without coming off like a pretentious ass? It’s possible as long as it’s not forced. No matter how incredible and life-changing your book may be, you can’t generate interest by shoehorning it into every conversation. What you can do is be conscious. It’s your book, you know it inside and out, so if a legitimate opportunity arises, you’ll be ready to discuss it. Always put the conversation first and never try to steer it towards a sale, people can sense that, and nothing puts them off faster. Once again, having confidence in your work without being arrogant will take you a long way!