Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Georgette Heyer throws shade via FB header of the week from Women Writing Women

Oh, snap. Feel free to steal this perfectly sized meme for your FB cover. Just click to expand and right click to save. And don't miss out on this amazing box set offer from Women Writing Women!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

'Scuse me while I call BS on this article about Creative Writing MFA programs

Several of my Facebook friends have recently shared Ryan Boudinot's recent article in The Stranger: "Things I can say about creative writing MFA programs now that I no longer teach one."

I understand why people praise him for his brave honesty, but if I'm to be equally candid, I gotta call BS on most of this, and I don't have time to post comments every time I see this thing, so here goes:

I’m not an MFA or MFA instructor; I’m a working author and ghostwriter whose resumé includes several NYT bestsellers, all the preferred critical kudos and thousands of hours as a book doctor and editor. I’m not rich or famous, but I’ve dedicated 20 years to the art of writing, and for most of that time, I've made an excellent living practicing the craft I love.

People like this guy do such a grave disservice to aspiring writers who invest thousands of dollars and years of their lives to learning the craft of writing.

First, Boudinot says: “The vast majority of my students were hardworking, thoughtful people devoted to improving their craft despite having nothing interesting to express and no interesting way to express it. My hope for them was that they would become better readers.”

Does that mean “nothing of interest” to him? Or does he feel qualified to judge what is or is not of interest to millions of other people? And if his hope for the “vast majority” of students is the modest wish for them to be better readers, they got ripped off and so did the passionate educator who could have filled this position.

Then there’s this ridiculous assertion: “If you didn't decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you're probably not going to make it.”

While I was a teenager and 20-something, I was a talented dabbler, not a serious writer. I worked as a waitress, factory cog, busker, grocery checker and the person who scrubbed the floors and walls of the little private booths in a coin-operated porn theater. I hopped freights and smoked pot, played guitar, hitchhiked around the US, spent a couple years as an all-night disc jockey on an old-school album rock station, lived on a fire tower in the Northern California wilderness, married the love of my life and had two babies.

I started writing seriously while I was in chemo at age 32. My first novel was published by MacAdam-Cage when I was 35, and despite my being so inexcusably tardy to the party, I’ve since been published by Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Hyperion and Hachett. I also learned everything I could about indie publishing and launched my own digital imprint.

I believe my life experiences make me a better writer than I would have been if I’d devoted the first half of my life to academic circle-jerking. Many, many stellar authors—not just a few “notable exceptions”—came to the profession as fully grown ass folk.

I do agree with a few points made: you must read, you must write, and nobody loves a whiny memoir unless it’s beautifully written. I strongly agree with his assertion that you don’t need his help to get published, because he seems to know very little about publishing. And this is the crux of the problem. I can’t think of another professional field in which most educators have little or no working knowledge of the industry in which their students hope to make a living.

A creative writing program is useless if it isn't headed up by people who actually know something about the publishing industry, because one of the greatest challenges of writing life is the balance of art and commerce. Literary culture cannot thrive when artists are starved into submission or forced to choose between art and the welfare of their families. We should expect to be paid for our work like any other craftspeople, and that's not what aspiring writers are being taught in most MFA programs.

Last but not least, I wonder why the author, throughout this article, consistently raises examples of mediocre and bad students with female pronouns while the only “real deal” student mentioned is “that guy”?

Actually, that’s disingenuous; I don’t wonder why. I just wonder how much damage he did to the talented women authors who came to class hoping to learn about the art and craft of writing and came away with a bucket of sour academic grapes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I feel like a 20 year old! (My firstborn book keeps evolving.)

20 years ago this week, I got the life-changing call every writer works and waits for. Fred Ramey​ of MacMurray & Beck (which later morphed into MacAdam-Cage) pulled my first novel out of the slush pile and offered to publish it. His belief in the book and in me as an author changed my life. He also changed the title from Last Chance Gulch to Crazy for Trying.

I was just coming out of a long stretch of cancer treatment, which had left Gary and me bankrupt, so we did the responsible thing and used the advance to take our kids to DisneyWorld. And 18 months later, we used the first royalty check to make a down payment on a house. This book and I have both come a long way, as you can see. I adored the hardcover design. Gary had it blown up into a poster for my office. The paperback, I felt was a bit, um... phallic (Gary promptly dubbed it "the blow job cover"), but I gotta love MacAdam-Cage -- they graciously reverted the rights back to me in 2010 so I could indie pub an ebook edition. After I threw away almost a thousand dollars on professionally done cover designs, all of which I hated, Gary shot a photo of my old 12-string guitar resting on my daughter's hip, and I created a cover I loved. I didn't care what anyone else thought of it and still don't.

I'm so thrilled to have Crazy for Trying included in Outside the Box: Women Writing Women, a limited edition digital boxset of seven top-drawer novels by powerhouse women authors. The common thread: each compelling story features a strong, idiosyncratic woman protagonist. This edition of Crazy for Trying has been updated with a fresh edit and a new look by FUdog Book Bling. 

I was happy to find, as I revisited it, that the story set in the 1970s still holds up. If anything, it's more relevant than ever, because the secondary plotline focused on what happens to a child being raised by two mothers when the biological mother dies, and the longtime partner parent has no legal standing. "I feel like a widow," she says, "but I don't get to wear the classy black veil."

(Visit www.womenwritewomen.com for more info and links to buy the box set! It's available through May 24 only!)