Tag Archives: the business of writing

The End of a Publishing Project

Dear Friends and Readers—

My publisher, Booktrope, is folding as of May 31, 2016, and my books will be (hopefully temporarily) out of print. I do have two works in progress: a follow up to my memoir with the working title of Bumbling into Baby, and the second in the Time Guardians trilogy, Intermediate Time Travel. The latter is further along than the former. I’ll be speaking with some colleagues in the publishing industry about my options for these two new titles and when I have an approach for them I will let everyone know.

I have no ill will toward Booktrope and I have to say I am honored to have worked with some very fine people, especially the senior team at the hybrid publisher, my editors Jennifer Munro and Danika Dinsmore, who are incredibly talented writers in their own right. (Right? Or rights? See, I need good editors.) Thanks also to Christy Price for helping to publicize Bumbling into Body Hair; I’m sure I’m still a nobody author but I was REALLY a supremely nobody author in 2012.

My plan is to republish the memoir with perhaps an author’s forward and a new cover. Expect that later this summer. Regarding the novel … well, I have to talk to a few people in the industry and see what my options are. I don’t want to leave readers hanging from the first book, although perhaps it could stand alone.

Yes, I have other projects. They’ve been on the back burner for the last six months as I’ve been working on Intermediate. If you could put in a word to the universe for something like a MacArthur Fellowship for me, feel free. (I know, it’s never going to happen. *cough cough GENIUS GRANT cough cough*) But my time is limited; I’ll discuss possibilities and then do my best.

Often, it’s all we can do. Be well, friends, fellow authors, editors, publicists, proofreaders, and cover designers extraordinaire. See you in the pages of the next project.

It was a good idea, Ken and Katherine. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

Spinning Plates—Raising a Family & Writing Books

Two toddlers, one with limbs like Plasticman, the other in the throes of potty training uncertainty, one partner with a busy academic career, the other attempting to navigate the policy morass that is post-Affordable Care Act implementation, a year into a house purchase that has seen no fewer than half a dozen small renovation/replacement projects, and it’s no wonder I am struggling to stay on top of my writing schedule. Even my weekday schedule itself is upside-down: now that both children are in preschool in the mornings, my late afternoon writing time has evaporated.

But here’s the thing about being a writer—I still find time to make words appear on the screen. I might not meet my goals in a given week, but writing is something of a flexible career. That story I wrote last year finally found a home over at Expanded Horizons. The back burner project left languishing in the recesses of my brain suddenly jumps forward and then I have an essay ready for a market. The followup to my memoir, a mess of incorrect chronology and meant-for-journal-only prose at long last feels emotionally available to me, so I can restructure it and add to the 44,000-word count. If I’m lucky my editor will tell me it’s not total trash when I eventually email it to her. And then I can get back into the sequel to my YA novel and finish the first draft (I’m at 52,000 words on that one so far).

If this looks like my work is all over the place, it is. I haven’t even mentioned the speculative piece I’m working on for an anthology submission, the pitch I’m trying to write to get a column in a market for the 2016 election, or the adult novel I’ve been working on for three years that needs a research grant so I can delve into an archive on the east coast. (Please, NEA, please.) I’ve missed a couple of deadlines in all of this chaos, but that’s okay—if I can’t make the submission date, I must not have been that interested.

Call it all Writing While Gemini.


It’s two days later since I started this blog post, and here I am at a desk with a vanilla latte inches away from my thirsty self, and a computer under my fingerprints that is beaming its 99% battery charge at me with something like glee. My four-hour writing window is here, so toodaloo, friends. My process is messy, encumbered with all kinds of nonsense and scatterbrainedness, but it works for me … mostly. Would that we all find our productive processes wherever they may be.

Honestly, Just Write and Stop Worrying

I am no stranger to anxiety. Anxiety may even be something of a close friend, but it’s one of those friends who talks on and on about themselves during your coffee date together and maybe you don’t even realize it until you’ve hugged and you’re walking home and then finally you think, “I didn’t even say that my dog died/I’m breaking up with my partner/I got a new job/something momentous and totally wortpart of an interview I did with PQMonthly as a winner of their Brilliant List awards programh mentioning.” I’ll put it this way: I hate my way through my relationship with anxiety, one miserable unwanted thought at a time.

That said, I am a product of no fewer than half a dozen terrific therapists and my neuroses are down to a dull, annoying grumble in the back of my head. I recognize frenemy Anxiety as soon as it pops itself into my consciousness, and sometimes I can stamp it out even when it’s bumbling about in my semi-conscious, because things like my body will send up an alert, and then that decade of therapy kicks in, and well, if I have to Goldberg Machine my way to functionality, so be it. It’s working for me. I’m even past the point where I tell myself to fake it till I make it. Read More…

Notes from the Writing Trans Genres Conference

I like to write up my thoughts as I’m attending a conference or just after I walk away from it, while the plethora of conversations are still swirling around in my brain. It’s a little reminiscent of how I studied in primary school, by taking in as much of the school day as  Icould and then writing up my notes later. Maybe I need to move my fingers around to set the thoughts in place, I’m not sure.

I just finished up my participation in the Writing Trans Genres conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There were at least four generations of trans authors and thinkers there, maybe 250 of us, roughly. At least it felt like a quarter of a thousand. I didn’t do a head count and I didn’t ask the organizers. I didn’t want to miss even a moment of it—unlike truly humongous conferences like the Popular Cultural Association Conference or the BookExpo, where there is no hope of going to every panel, this was more intimate and almost comprehensible in scope, until people started talking. At that point there were so many ideas all in one animated stream that it took a lot of energy on my part to keep up with the conversation and concepts. But maybe I’m just an exhausted parent of two kids under the age of three. This conference was marked by several laudable characteristics not commonly found at conferences: Read More…

Twitter for Writers

A few folks have asked me about Twitter over the years and how such a terse medium can be helpful for writers. What content can one even get communicated in so few characters?

The answer is: a lot. If we stop thinking about Twitter as the site of traditional content that takes eight hundred or more words to convey, and start thinking of it as a touchpoint and springboard or longer form pieces, then the possibilities open up. There are scads of great posts out there on growing followers, how to identify good accounts to follow, and so on, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Here are a few of those, as introductory Twitterverse items.

The thing for writers (or anyone, really) to do to get started on Twitter is to set up a profile, find people who are already on Twitter who you know or by your interests, and start generating content. Let’s take these in turn. Read More…

What We Talk About When We Talk About Revisions

Editors signNational Novel Writing Month is upon us, and whether or not we’re keeping up with our word count, we probably keep hearing the advice to put all edits aside and just lay down the first draft. This is good advice, because 50,000 words is impossible to achieve if the writer is focusing on perfecting the first 2,500. And yet people may not know what we mean by revisions or edits. How will we know when to start editing? More importantly, how will we know when to stop?

The answer to the first question is relatively easy–when the first draft (what I like to call “pass through”) is done. And by “done,” I mean every scene that needs to be in the document is written. I point out the scene inclusion because when I’m writing my first draft I often put in place holders like this:

<<STORMY goes to ALLISON’S house, steals her car>>

So when those are all filled in I mark it as ready for editing. Revisions begin as soon as I’m ready, in the next minute, a few hours later, or after a break if I think I need one. Generally I jump right back in after a coffee, because I’m not fond of getting back up to speed on a book; I’d rather stay swimming in the characters, storyline, and themes. Before edits can begin though, I need to think about what my goals are for the second through twentieth pass throughs. Yes, twentieth. Revisions are the real work of writing, as the first draft is the feel good phase. This is the heavy lifting, but look at it this way: you spent this much time building up momentum, you can’t let the project crash and burn now.

At least that’s what I tell myself. Read More…

On the Road for an Unknown Writer’s Book Tour

The book tour is an endangered species, part of the soon-to-be archaic practice of publishers in getting publicity for top- and mid-list authors when their latest books hit the market. I remember book tours from the bookstore perspective, because I was once a book buyer and I coordinated readings up in Syracuse, New York. Stephen King, impeccably nice. Oliver Stone, not so nice. Mollie Katzen had lots of culinary tips, William Bennet was reserved, and Donna Shalala had a great booming laugh. For each of these events we ordered 30, 40, 75 copies of their tomes, and the lines stretched out of the store and into the student life building atrium. We’d put extra people on shift and listen to the cash registers ring with sales. It was something of an assembly line: customers waiting, picking up books, paying for books, getting books signed, out the door. A signing could last one or two hours before the interest petered out. We tried not to frown when people arrived with their own books or with books that had been released years earlier, because the authors were sure glad to see everyone. Some of the authors had requests up front or in their contracts that we had to fulfill, things like having sparkling water, or having a rival’s books tucked out of sight, and of course, of course, we were more than happy to oblige them.

When I do a reading, I count it as lucky if the store remembers I’m showing up that night. One reading had me and a few friends standing nervously on the sidewalk, the store dark and empty of staff, while I called my publicist. We were saved from reading on the street or walking away in sorrow when a random car with three store employees drove by us, wheeled around, and opened up the building. By the time I started reading in the quickly rearranged room, 15 people had shown up. Read More…

5 Mistakes Emerging Writers Make

Everett reading in San FranciscoDepending on how I tabulate my time trying to get published, I’ve either been at it for 26 years or 4. (Long story.) At long last I found a publisher for my memoir, and a few journal editors who agreed to publish short work of mine. I’m grateful for those opportunities, understanding that all of this work amounts to a series of tiny steps toward making my writing a part of LGBT literature, however miniscule that part may be. When people come up to me and thank me for creating something that resonated with them or with which they could identify, I am beyond pleased. Writing is not about making money, after all, at least not for me. It’s about connecting people and adding what I think is a rare voice in the market. I neither apologize for being transsexual or bringing humor into my delivery, because both of those aspects are sorely missing in literature about people in my community.

I admit there are many ways for an emerging writer to keep her/himself from reaching the market, however. And I speak from experience on several of these points, as I’ve fought against making them or have actually gone full bore into materializing these errors. I’ll also note that this is certainly not an exhaustive list. Feel free to add on in the comments. But as I have lived it, the big missteps are these:

1. Grousing–There is so much stress associated with being an unknown writer, I get it. We worry if our work is any good, if anyone will notice our value, we incur piles of rejection slips, even while we watch vapid celebrity book projects get tons of hype from traditional publishing (hey, ghostwriters need to make a living too). One expert will tell us our book is too long, another says it’s not long enough, and so on. But if you’re working on establishing an audience, remember that readers–seasoned readers in your genre especially–have no tolerance for complaining. Nothing will make you look unprofessional faster and with less effort than negative statements about how crappy the publishing industry is or how blind agents are to your talents. Complain in private, among your most solid friends. Read More…

Usable Metaphors to Get over Rejection

7 dwarves singing hi-hoEvery now and again I write a little ditty about rejection letters, because in the world of the writer, they happen with great frequency. As many, many more talented authors than I have waxed about how rejections are good events because they push the writer forward, and are a sign that one is engaging in the publication enterprise.

But rejections sting. They can make us doubt our talent or our message or execution. I’ve heard more than once the dreaded “doesn’t rise above anecdote” when submitting short work. Don’t you dare write only an anecdote, even if our maximum word count is 1,000. Rejection can be frustrating enough that say, a garden variety writer like myself could lose the better part of the afternoon just stewing about the twelve words in the email from the journal editor.

Obsessing over the NOs doesn’t do us any good. With our future productivity and success in mind, let me jot down some metaphors to make rejection more palatable. Read More…

After the Agent Pitch

Emerging writers flock to conferences like the one just held by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association because they’re looking for information–from presenters with tips on craft and marketing, from fellow writers on lessons learned, from the bulletin board that lists local critique groups, and of course from editors and agents who are broadly viewed to hold the keys to the palace of publishing. We practice our pitches, memorize our log lines and synopses, update with lightning speed our writing credentials for our bios, all in the hopes that some paragon of the industry–or new agent looking to sign unknown authors–will ask for a partial manuscript. We feel the onslaught of butterflies invade our intestines when we’re instructed to give a specific subject line in our email message, like we’ve just learned the 21st Century’s version of “Open, Sesame.”

Before you click on that send button, do a few things: Read More…

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