Monthly Archives: September 2013

An Open Letter to David Gilmour

Canadian author David Gilmour has kicked over a hornet’s next with his comments about predominantly teaching male authors to his students . I thought this response and challenge by Anne Thériault was worth sharing.
– Martin Ott

The Belle Jar

Dear David Gilmour,

As a woman writer I’d like to say thank you.

No, honestly, thank you.

Thank you for being privileged enough, culturally tone-deaf enough, and even just plain stupid enough to say that you don’t love women writers enough to teach their works in your class. Thank you for saying what so many other male professors think but are afraid to admit. Thank you for opening up this huge fucking can of worms that most people are happy enough to pretend doesn’t even exist.

Seriously, thank you for reminding me that, as a writer who happens to be female, I will always be a woman first and a writer second.

Oh and thank you especially for throwing in that little racial comment about how you also don’t love Chinese writers, because you might as well shit all the beds while you’re at it, right?

But…

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Living My Addiction

Guest Blog Post by Nadine Maritz

IMG_Nadine_Maritz

A while back Martin Ott asked whether I’d be interested in doing a blog post about how My Addiction Blog (M.A.) fits into my life. I was  honoured to do a review and interview on his novel The Interrogators Notebook – earlier in the year. Martin’s book was an intriguing journey flowered with excitement. It’s therefore an even bigger honour to be able to do a guest blog on something I feel this passionate about.

The Story Behind M.A

M.A.started off as an addiction to writing created from reading. Like many people, I finished high school (a time where I loved reading and writing), started work, got married, had kids etc. At the age of 29, I found myself getting more and more depressed by the monotony around me, and I turned to reading, something I used to love but left behind when life got in the way.

At the time, I found that the more I read, the more I had a passion to create my own story. So, I woke up one morning and started typing up a storm. After about a month, I had my first draft done and was emailing it off to every Tom, Dick and Harry I could find on the internet. Needless to say I was filled with dread when I started receiving return emails saying nope, no and hell no.

I was devastated that no one shared my passion. The reality made me sit back and ponder the way forward. So, I withdrew my submissions (the ones I hadn’t received comments about) and started looking for an editor. I ran through my draft and realised my own horrible flaws. I started editing the plot, reading up on other authors’ journeys and listening to other people’s stories. In doing that, something changed within me—instead of being passionate about getting my work out there, I became passionate about mastering the art, sharing people’s journeys and acknowledging the roads they travelled by.

Where at first I just wanted to become famous and known, I grew into understanding what it took to be out there, to get your story published—to market and grow your brand, your work. So instead of just concentrating on me, M.A started moving more toward keeping things real for everyone else on this journey with me. I wanted people to know that it wasn’t just a case of writing a story and, slap bang, you get published. I wanted people to understand how the process works. I desired to introduce people to the different types of genres and different authors. I wanted to connect aspiring authors and readers to the differences within getting published around the world. Today, I strive to create that connection. I endeavour to create level footing for authors, readers, directors, musicians and screenwriters alike.

And that’s M.A today.

Where it fits into my life every day? 

When I sit back and reflect on where it started, I am happy and overjoyed to share my journey and growth. Because even though I am a full time worker, a mother and wife, M.A is ultimately a reflection of me. I wake up every day with the ultimate goal of sharing people’s dreams and aspirations (and sometimes I add a bit of my own). When I meet these people and share their work, I am always overwhelmed with honour at being allowed to build these remarkable relationships and add wonderful people to my existing support group. Throughout my journey, I haven’t met one person who hasn’t managed to inspire something within me, something I can put toward my own work, my own life.

Do I still write?

Of course, I chisel away on the overall story every day. I nag, quarrel, deliberate and negotiate with my editor constantly.  For me, the key in telling my story is not about being impulsive and instantly inspired. Instead it’s to take the time, measure up your plots, create your story, build your art and live.

Inspiration:

Writing is something that evolves and moves, like the ocean. Novels are stories you build and carve. An inspirational woman summed things up quite simply recently—your thoughts and words are what create your world. I tell myself this every day, and I encourage everyone I know to test the theory. Don’t just taste the murmur on your lips. Say it. Understand it. Live it. I can guarantee that you’ll be astonished to discover the change in your perception.

About the Author

On a normal day you would find Nadine Maritz racing up and down the streets of The City of Gold, Johannesburg, South Africa while co-ordinating work, kids and life. She sees herself as a celestial being that has mastered the art of multitasking on many a level. When she doesn’t escape to new worlds whilst reading, she interrogates fellow authors, screenwriters, publishers, directors and musicians on her blog with interviews on their passion and lifelong journeys. Every now and then she gets asked to do a general review or hoist an opinion which she gladly sucks up and adds to at all times. She is a lively participant on various networking sites and blogs.

In-between the midst of her chaos she manages to slip away and create a different world that’s categorized as urban fantasy. She is an inventive writer that grew up during the apartheid era which created interesting influences on different cultural levels. She has always had a love for writing and reading and made the leap of novel-writing in her late twenties.

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How to Query a Poetry Press

Guest Post by Janet Holmes

Janet Holmes

Last month, I got an email from someone I don’t know and posted it on Facebook.

It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

Questions: Are you guys currently receiving submissions for publications?

How much will it cost to assemble a book of poetry?

Do you guys provide copyrights?

Do you also provide art covers? If so, how much will that cost? Can I provide my own?

I edit my own poems would that be okay if I do all my editing myself?

I have this thing were I don’t want people editing my work only myself.

After the book is finished being published and all, will I be having all royalties? or is it 50/50?

I look forward in hearing from you soon.

Someone in the comment stream objected that I was “mocking” this correspondent unfairly, suggesting that he was “a kid” who didn’t know the ropes. In my defense, I didn’t use the fellow’s name, and I answered him in email, suggesting he was looking for a self-publishing company. But this commenter thought I should do more by way of communicating with would-be authors about how one goes about submitting a manuscript, and Martin Ott has invited me to elaborate here. So here are a few pointers.

1.      Know to whom you’re writing.

This correspondent went to the effort of looking up our email address, but could have taken the extra step of seeing who is on staff. Otherwise, use simple business etiquette. Some women, though I’m not one of them, prefer not to be called “you guys.”

2.      Learn something about the press before you write.

Most if not all presses will have a web presence with information about submissions, current and previous publications, and something about the press history and mission. The person you’re writing to will probably just point you to this information if it is readily available elsewhere. Do your homework.

3.      Read a book from the press—or at least look at one in a store.

It should go without saying that poets read books of poetry, but if you’re submitting to a press you’ve never heard of before, how do you know they’ll respond to your work? The best way to find out is to see what they’ve already published. If you like what you read, then by all means, query. At Ahsahta, we include a poem from each book in our catalogue on our website, so people can read a bit before they decide whether to buy—or whether to submit.

4.      Show in your cover letter that you are familiar with the press.

Often, someone will write to us because they’ve admired one or more of the books we’ve published. It’s good to know that they are knowledgeable about our tastes and our list, and that the accompanying manuscript will likely be somewhere in our ballpark.

5.      Know what publishers do.

Because it can be relatively inexpensive to produce a short run of books, self-publishing is popular among people who want to do their own editing, layout, cover art, and other production tasks. A publisher won’t charge you for these things, but a printer (or self-publishing company) will. There are many businesses set up just for this purpose, and not all of them work the same way. Just use “publish your book” as a search term, and you’ll be led to CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company), Lulu, and many other companies who will be happy to walk you through the process and charge you appropriately.

Publishers, however, are in it for the bigger picture. First, they don’t publish every manuscript they get. There’s a rigorous editing process that serves two purposes: it ensures that the publisher can afford to publish all the books that are accepted (since the authors are not paying for the publication), and it also provides a standard of quality by which that publisher will be known.

A publisher will register your copyright, typeset your book, design it, provide a cover with or without your input, market it, distribute it, and in most cases pay you a royalty when the book has sold copies. The degree of your involvement in these processes will differ according to the publisher. There is no need in a query letter to ask about any of the routine things a publisher does—that’s for later, when the book has been accepted.

6.      Know what the publisher wants.

The publisher may have a policy of looking at an entire manuscript or only a 10-page sample; some will only want the query letter itself (or no query: see below).

If an entire manuscript is solicited, you will want to provide one to the length specifications for the press—in most cases, 60 to 80 pages of poetry. The poems should be ordered the way they will appear in the book, with a table of contents, acknowledgments, and an author bio. A publisher does not want you to send hundreds of poems so that they can choose the best ones; they want to read only your best work.

If you are entering a contest, pay attention to the rules. If the rules say not to put your name on every page, don’t do it. If they say don’t include a bio or acknowledgments, don’t include them. The rules are there for good reasons, and not following them can get your manuscript tossed aside.

If the publisher just wants to see a sample of your work, send the best poems you have, perhaps with a paragraph describing the book if it is a larger project.

7.      Respect the publisher’s guidelines.

Many publishers work several years in advance, and may have a backlog of books they’ve promised to publish. For that reason, they may not be reading unsolicited manuscripts at all. Before you go to the trouble of writing a polite and businesslike query letter, check to see whether the publisher is open to receiving them. Ahsahta and many other publishers no longer look at paper copies of manuscripts, but use Submission Manager or Submittable or other software to manage their workloads. If we aren’t currently accepting manuscripts, the Submission Manager will be closed.

Readers might be surprised how often I get letters similar to the one I’ve quoted above. So if the person commenting on my post is correct, and more communication is necessary, I hope this will help.

About the Author

Janet Holmes is Director and Editor of Ahsahta Press at Boise State University, where she is also a Professor in the MFA in Creative Writing program. Her latest book of poetry is The ms of my kin (Shearsman).

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