Recently, I had an interesting exchange with a writer friend of mine who lives in a progressive bubble in the Pacific Northwest.
She was remarking on how accepting everyone is now of the LGBTQ+ community.
"They even paint the streets with rainbows during Pride!" She said of her hometown.
I get why she felt that way. I used to feel that way too, curled up in my liberal bubble in the northeast, comfortable in my privilege living as a straight, white woman.
I gently reminded my friend about what's happening in Florida and many other states.
About the fact that Target pulled Pride garb from its shelves after a protest.
About the fact that we are living in two Americas—one that embraces and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community—and another that wants to annihilate it.
Queer folx need to raise their voices and write their stories. These stories matter, y'all. Representation matters.
That's why during Pride Month, I'm centering the stories of queer writers who...
A couple weeks ago, I opened an email from the art director of my publisher entitled "Cover Design Introduction."
Ahh ... covers.
You've heard the expression "Don't judge a book by its cover," which means don't judge something by its outward appearance.
But truth be told—don't we do that ALL THE TIME about many things?
Especially with books.
Does the cover make a potential reader curious about what's inside? Does it turn them on or repel them? Does it make them want to investigate further to find out what the book is really about?
We ask similar questions about titles too.
Covers—and titles—define the book's concept or "feel"—in seconds. A potential reader will either be turned on or turned off or feel neutral by that first impression, which will play a huge role in whether they pick up the book for a second look.
As I reviewed the copy edit of my memoir manuscript—my final chance to make any substantive changes to THE ONLY WAY THROUGH IS OUT—something bothered me about one sentence in Chapter 1, but I didn't know why.
I didn’t even know whether she was literate.
Straightforward, well-intentioned, and no one—not my book coach, my beta readers, my peer reviewers, or my editors—had flagged this particular sentence. If they didn't have a problem with it, maybe I shouldn't either.
I moved on to Chapter 2.
The next day, a post entitled: Words to Avoid—2023 Edition showed up on my social media feed.
And there it was, Word #4: illiterate.
Granted, my sentence contained the word "literate," not "illiterate," but it was close enough to get my attention and read on.
As a writer, I know that words matter—and I also know that I will sometimes get it wrong because language is constantly evolving.
I've learned to avoid...
The short answer is YES.
The longer answer is that there are many different kinds of editing that are important at different stages in your writing journey.
Developmental editing looks at the big picture issues. Is your memoir starting and ending in the right place? Is there a narrative arc? Is the emotion on the page or does the writing feel flat?
Writers hire a developmental editor after they have a complete draft of their manuscript (and ideally, their manuscript is in as good a shape as they can get it on their own). The developmental editor delivers an editorial letter outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript; sometimes these developmental edits (also sometimes called manuscript evaluations or assessments) include inline comments as well. The writer then returns to the manuscript to execute the suggested changes.
Subject line: "Title Talk."
The marketing team had concerns about the title of my coming out later in life memoir. They were worried that a book called Graveyard of Safe Choices could potentially sound "like a real bummer." And my book is anything but. It's a hopeful story about finding the courage to leave the graveyard of safe choices, not wallow in it.
I loved my title! I had gone through many other working titles and thought I had finally landed on a winner. After all, it was the title that landed me a book deal.
But the more I sat with the feedback on my title, I realized that the marketing team was right.
Book buyers are heavily influenced by titles and cover art. So it was really important to get my title right and not settle for something that was potentially "a bummer." And the cover designer was waiting on the right-fit title so she could...
My client, Chris Chandler, is about to become a published author!
Her memoir Stay Sweet: Tales of Quirky Southern Love, will be published on May 12th, 2023 by Red Thread Publishing.
Here's the first part of her advice that I shared last week.
Want the cliff notes version?
Just do it.
You don't have to know everything to get started.
#1: My writing community has been invaluable to me, so I would definitely encourage people to develop a writing community in whatever way they can. Through the years I've taken a lot of writing classes and and I do that both for learning, but it's also community building for me.
Community. If you've been following me for a while, you know this is a biggie for me. It's one of the pillars of WRITE YOURSELF OUT, my 12-month mentorship for LGBTQ+ writers.
I've been conducting "Author Chats" with former clients and other writers I'm connected to where we talk about their writing and publication journeys—and where I ask them to pass on their wisdom on to writers who are just getting started.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Chandler, a soon-to-be published memoir author. In the summer of 2021, Chris came to me with a loose collection of family stories that she wasn't sure what to do with.
Over several months, Chris and I identified an overarching theme for her stories, revised the ones she'd already written, added some new ones, and decided on a structure for her book.
Her memoir Stay Sweet: Tales of Quirky Southern Love will be published on May 12th, 2023 by Red Thread Publishing.
Stay Sweet reminds us that unconditional love still exists in the world and that families can provide safe landing places for children at any age. Plus you'll get to meet the unforgettable May, the...
A couple of weeks ago I began requesting blurbs for Graveyard of Safe Choices, my memoir about coming out later in life—which meant emailing authors I didn't know at all or I knew only a little to ask if they would spend THEIR precious time reading MY book and then endorsing it.
I heard back right away from one author who said yes (thank goodness!).
The other three, including one who is kind of a big wig in queer literary circles: radio silence.
Maybe they missed the email in their overcrowded inboxes.
Maybe they thought, "Who the hell is this person who has the nerve to ask me to read her book and endorse it?"
Okay, I only thought that about the kind of big wig person—the other two authors actually know who I am.
All week long, the task of following up hung over my head. Plus, I was supposed to send out even more blurb requests.
The absolute last thing I wanted to do.
Years ago, an old friend of mine said to me in her inimitable Southern drawl: "I needed to be hit over the head with a 2x4 to get the message."
As a native New Yorker and someone who barely knew what a 2x4 was, those weren't words I would have used, but I knew what she meant.
I've been known to ignore signs from the universe for umm ... decades?!
Signs that I was gay (really, oh so gay).
That I was a writer.
That I could use my natural gifts as an editor to work with other writers.
Instead, I typically chose the safer, easier-in-the-moment path.
In my 50s, I finally listened to the signs from the universe, which led me to the very different life I am leading today—as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a first-time dog parent (!), the wife of Wendy, and a book coach dedicated to helping queer folx raise their voices,...
I had two polar opposite experiences last week that convinced me that queer people need safe spaces to raise their voices and write their stories more than ever.
First, I read in the newspaper that the Pope declared that being gay isn’t a crime—sure, it’s a “sin,” but not a crime. So comforting.
I haven’t had time to unpack all the feelings that exploded through my body when I read that headline, but here are a few:
Writers go on a hero’s journey when they make the decision to get their story out of their heads and onto the page.
Queer writers go on a Queero’s Journey!
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