1st BOOKS is hosted by MEG WAITE CLAYTON
I hope you’ll be inspired by• First Words by Karen Joy Fowler
• The Not Quite Yes by National Book Award winner Julia Glass
• Call in Sick More Often by Jamie Ford
• The Author Formerly Known As... by Melanie Benjamin
• The 136-Rejection Overnight Success by my best writer-pal, Brenda Rickman Vantrease, and
• In Praise of Writing Friends, my own story
You might also enjoy my husband's blog, The Dad App
Guest Posting on 1st Books
I don't review books on 1st Books, but I do host traditionally-published author guest posts to coincide with new book releases, as space allows. If you're interested, contact me through this page, and please include the title, publisher, and publication date.
I recognize the market is changing and many fine books are self-published these days, but due to volume considerations, at the moment I'm only hosting authors who publish with traditional publishers.
Authors Who’ve Guest-Posted Here(This list is a work in progress!) Melanie Benjamin
Cathy Marie Buchanan
Harriet Scott Chessman
Karen Joy Fowler
Elena Mauli Shapiro
Julie Lawson Timmer
Brenda Rickman Vantrease
Diane Drake, my teacher for an online screenwriting course I'm taking for fun and potential profit - ;) - recommended this interview with Michael Arndt. If you don't know who he is ... it turns out very few of us know who creates the stories behind the films we watch. How sad is that? (Next time, watch the credits!) Arndt wrote the screenplays for "Little Miss Sunshine" (for which he won a Screenwriting Oscar), "Toy Story 3" (Oscar nominated), and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (which grossed a mere$424,668,047 ... domestically - and nearly a billion worldwide). The whole interview is inspiring, but what I particularly loved was his closing: "Just be patient. It took me ten years of writing before I finally sold my first script." If you'd like to watch a fabulous little video about screenwriting by Arndt, here it is. I think I've recommended this next bit before, but it bears rereading: The Twenty-two rules of Screenwriting, according to Pixar - no matter what you're writing. See you at the movies!
Désirée Zamorano's novel The Amado Women is just out from Cinco Puntos Press. Bustle called it one of Eleven Moving Beach Reads That'll Have You Weeping in Your Pina Colada and Remezcla listed it as one of 5 Must-Read Books for Summer 2014. She is also the director of Occidental College’s Community Literacy Center. Lovely to have her here on 1st Books! - Meg At book chats, audience members ask me how long this novel took to write. I am not sure how to calculate. Do I count the years between drafts? Do I count the months of mourning the second draft, when my laptop (pre-Dropbox) was stolen? Do I count the years I put it aside, convinced it was the wrong story for me to tell, at the wrong time? I’m the kind of writer who feels too many things deeply. A small moment, a tiny rupture, a casual rejection. Almost a decade ago I sent my VIP NYC agent the manuscript that would become The Amado Women. She had been unsuccessfully shopping my mystery novel around, and I thought this family drama was better, this one would be successful. My agent’s response was swift and final: she dumped me. Now, I knew a few things about a writer’s path, having devoured thousands of pages of advice. I knew, for example, that you had to do work, the writing. I also knew every single writer’s journey was different. A very few emerge from the gate gilded and anointed. For others it is an arduous, treacherous switchback path. But with the finality of that agent’s rejection I questioned this dream of mine, and the perseverance that was overwhelmingly necessary. Was it time to abandon this aspiration and move on? That was when I discovered Carolyn See’s book, Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers. I was too unsuccessful, I thought then, to call myself a writer. But I certainly was a dreamer. In this book Carolyn See offers two writing recipes, the 18-minute chili and the 18-hour chili, but in both the key beginning ingredient is “Fun First.” Fun? I had so many layers of expectations that the fun, the entire reason my third-grade soul had been entranced by the concept, had been squeezed out. I devoured then reread that book, with its generous voice and its thoughtful counsel. That book became the mentor I did not have. From her seeds of playful encouragement I connected with other writers. I continued to attend conferences. I honored the people who supported my goals. And, of course, I kept writing. A few years later I invited Ms. See to speak where I teach. I brought my copy for her to sign. I’m reading her inscription now. She wrote: “It’s only a matter of time!” I began to query publishers directly. Cinco Puntos Press liked my draft enough to give me notes and recommendations. I dove in, then sent it off, and worked on other books. They sent the draft back, with more notes, saying it wasn’t quite right for them. At this point, I was done with The Amado Women. I put the manuscript and their comments away. Again, too many layers of expectation, and I took it as a profound rejection. The French director Robert Bresson says, “Make visible, that which without you might never be seen.” Whisper that to yourself when you’re frozen by rejection. I kept writing. Two years later Lee Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press emailed me and asked me where my next draft was. Wait, she was querying me? I dug out the manuscript with all of her comments. What I had previously taken so deeply now looked simple and manageable. When they told me they were publishing my book I began to have sleeping problems. I would wake up for the day at 5 a.m., or stay up at night till 3, or wake up at 3 and fall asleep at 5. During these sleepless times there was this constant thrumming, in my ears, in my brain, cascading around my chest. Was I sick? I wondered, in the middle of the night. Was I dying? It literally took me months to puzzle this one out. I finally realized, not long before my first reading, what it was: I was happy. Trust a writer’s insight. Now I realize how ridiculous I have been, all these many years, to allow one thing to define success for me. One. How ludicrous. And yet in July, while being introduced to the audience at my hometown bookstore I looked around at my friends, my family, my supporters. Then I took the mic. “There’s something I’ve wanted to say for a very long time now,” I paused and looked again at the standing-room only crowd. “Thank you for being here tonight.” - Désirée
Liz Rosner has not one but two books coming out now - a new novel, Electric City, and the poetry collection Gravity. To celebrate, I'm running a post she did when Blue Nude came out in paperback. The Kirkus verdict on Electric City: “With deft descriptions, Rosner sketches the bustling city, on land long cherished by aboriginal culture, which grew and flourished as whites invaded and industrialized … offers a gentle meditation on love and loss.” And check out her gorgeous new website, too. It's designed by the amazing Ilsa Brink, who also does mine! – Meg For many of us, writing–not to mention publishing–may feel like a matter of life and death. In my case, the past two years have been a period of grappling quite literally with both, and winning two big prizes at once: my own restored health after breast cancer treatment, and the resurrection of my out-of-print second novel. Here’s the story, in hopes it might inspire others who are facing life-threatening illnesses and/or a loss of faith in the writing life. On my 49th birthday, new year’s eve in 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I later discovered that I carry the genetic mutation called BRCA-1, which guarantees a rather high risk of developing the disease, it seemed that my fate had been inscribed all along; it was simply a matter of timing. My mother had died of breast cancer in 2000, so my anxieties about survival were elevated even further. As readers of my novels The Speed of Light and Blue Nude already know, much of my writing reflects an exploration of my inheritance as a daughter of two Holocaust survivors, so it seemed doubly ironic that now I was dealing on a physiological level with my legacies as well. Allow me to note that my two book deal with Ballantine Books came about in the year 2000, just months before my mother’s sudden death. The actual publication date of Speed , September 4, 2001, meant that 9/11 was the first day of my book tour. Need I explain? Cancellations everywhere. My agent said to me: “Well, we’ve lost momentum, and we’ll never get it back.” The tears I might have shed stayed caught inside, as I felt forced to acknowledge losses so much greater than my own. So what if I’d been waiting my entire life for this moment? Death and devastation were ruining the lives of thousands, even millions of others. It took me almost a year to realize that this pattern of deferring to the pain of everyone else was a perfect echo of my entire childhood; nothing I suffered could ever begin to measure up to the vast traumas endured by my parents. I was supposed to be grateful to be alive. No disappointments were important enough to capture anyone’s full attention when epic tragedies deserved all of my sympathy. The good news? The Speed of Light garnered prizes in the U.S. and Europe, was translated into nine languages, and was optioned for a film by Gillian Anderson, who was determined to adapt and direct her first feature film. Sales rose and fell and rose during the next nine years, almost always in direct correlation with some news flash from Ms. Anderson. The book “still has legs,” as they say in the business. The film remains “under development,” with the option renewal money keeping me afloat. Fast forward to the publication of my second novel, Blue Nude, in May 2006. Warned by just about every writer I knew to be wary of the “Sophomore Syndrome,” I dared allow myself to hope that the book would defy those expectations and prove even more successful than my first novel. Friends joked that as long as a world war didn’t break out within a week of my publication date, I’d be in great shape. Having been orphaned at Ballantine no less than three times, I was now under the care and guidance of Random House executive editor in chief, feeling blessed by his approval and support. Or so I thought. Homeland security and world peace notwithstanding, the book received some rave reviews and was purchased for translation by one of my nine foreign publishers. No film option, no prizes, but terrific recognition as one of the year’s best books by the San Francisco Chronicle, and status as a national bestseller. When I found out that my editor was retiring, and that Random House had decided not to print the paperback edition of Blue Nude due to mediocre sales at Borders and Barnes & Noble, I began to feel the shocking pangs of loss yet again. My second novel went out of print, and as far as I was concerned, it had died of unnatural causes, and without an obituary. In May 2008, and despite my new agent’s suggestion that I give up on any hope for a paperback edition until I had a new manuscript to pitch, I requested and won reversion of rights for Blue Nude. All it took was a letter from an attorney who specialized in intellectual property (since my contract had stipulated this option was available to me). With my rights in hand, I was blessed to have the biggest and best champion of my novels on my side: Dan Smetanka, former executive editor at Ballantine, who had been the one to acquire my work in the first place, back in the year 2000. He had never given up on me, and as an independent editor, now proceeded to pursue some of his own leads for a possible paperback deal. Meanwhile, my cancer diagnosis grabbed and held onto center stage. I went through two surgeries in February 2009, and began chemotherapy in late March. The day came when I felt it was necessary to shave my head so that I didn’t have to watch my curls fall out in terrible clumps. Looking into the mirror, I saw the face of my father as a concentration camp survivor. Genetic history was rising to the surface all over again. I drove into the hills of Marin to visit a friend who had survived two bouts with breast cancer. We sipped tea together. She told me I looked like a Buddhist nun. Driving back downhill from that visit, I received a cell phone call from Dan Smetanka. He insisted that I pull over and park the car before he would talk to me, so I did. “Blue Nude has a paperback deal with Simon and Schuster,” he said. I had nearly forgotten such a thing was possible. Can you picture a bald woman by the side of the road, sobbing behind the wheel? Can you spell the word miracle? Blue Nude is itself the story of a resurrection, about a return to life by way of artistic collaboration, a healing of history that is both personal and collective. When the paperback comes out in September 2010, it will have a beautiful new cover, and an astonishing second chance, against all odds. My cancer is gone now, and my hair has grown back too. I’m nearing completion of my third novel, “Electric City.” We’re alive. – Liz