A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Filling Up the Tank and Packing My Bags

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 25:  An airliner la.... (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)


       
           Tomorrow we'll be heading out on a month long journey here at Wrote By Rote.  Yesterday you got a musical preview of things to come during the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.   Today I'm just kind of taking it easy while I invite my readers to follow me on a journey to some of the places that have significance in my life.

           The month of April is booked for my A to Z journey.  I'll be posting every day in April except Sundays other than April 1st.  That's 26 days of 26 blog posts, one for each letter of the alphabet.  Come with me to see where I'll take you each day.  Maybe you can guess where I go, maybe not--it's a big continent.

           In May it will be business as usual on this blog.  I'll be back to Saturday only posting and whenever I can I'll be opening my blog to guests.   If you have something memoir related that you'd like to write about, please let me know and we'll see where we can fit you in.    If you have an upcoming book or publication you'd like to promote, a memoir related event you'd like to talk about, something about memoir writing that you'd like to share, or even just a story you'd like to tell then let me know about it and we can schedule a guest spot.

          I look forward to hearing from you.   And I hope you'll join me in April.


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Friday, March 30, 2012

Sad Songs Blogfest: Places I Remember

   

       L. Diane Wolfe from Spunk on a Stick is hosting the Sad Songs Blogfest which is exactly what the title says it is.   I've already entered A Faraway View and A Few Words since I'm such a sucker for any music blogfest.

       Then as I was preparing my final A to Z posts for Wrote By Rote, I started thinking Sad Songs again. Wrote By Rote is my memoir blog which normally only publishes on Saturdays.  My theme for the A to Z Challenge will be concerning the places that have special meaning to me in my life.  Since there are so many Sad Songs about places, they began coming to mind as I was thinking about my A to Z posts.

         Here are my Sad Memoir Songs:

In My Life   -- This Beatles song could serve as an appropriate song for any memoir blog.



By the Time I Get to Phoenix --  Glen Campbell had a hit with this great song by Jimmy Webb.  It's all about places and lost love.  Makes you want to just sob and wail.




Hickory Grove -- There's a Hickory Grove in Tennessee.  I don't know if that's the place that Dan Fogelberg is talking about in this song, but it brings a lot of wistful memories back to me when I listen to it.



Massachusetts -- The BeeGees sang this sad song before their disco days.



Amarillo By Morning -- The life of a rodeo cowboy ain't all that glamorous according to this song by George Strait.   That mournful lonesome fiddle really gets to me.



Kentucky Rain -- This is the hit version by Elvis.  A song about traveling looking for lost love.  A road memoir.



           Hope you enjoyed these picks and I hope you'll join me on my A to Z travels.  There won't be any music, but lot's of stories.

           For more Sad Songs go to Spunk on a Stick for the list.   Thanks Diane for hosting.




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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Many Happy Endings: A Success Story from Memoir Author Teresa Rhyne


Thank you for allowing me to guest blog!

My memoir, The Dog Lived (and So Will I) will be published by Sourcebooks on October 1, 2012.  These are words I still cannot get used to. I still grin like an idiot. I still think it can’t possibly be true. But, with each step through the publication process things gets more and more “real” and exciting. So, thank you for allowing me to share a little bit of that excitement with you.

The short version of what my book is about is “everything I needed to know about cancer, I learned from my beagle.”  Everything I needed to know about getting published? Well that was a bit more complicated. I did it in what I think is probably becoming the “old fashioned way.” I spent many months writing sample chapters and then many more months writing a proposal (big props to Michael Larson’s book “How to Write a Book Proposal”).  I researched agents, spoke to writer friends, read the dedications in my favorite memoirs (to find out who their editors and agents were) and then spent a lot of time on QueryTracker.net. (I’m a big fan.) The first line in my query letter to agents was “I’ve been given a cancer diagnosis twice—once on behalf of my beagle and once on behalf of my right breast.”  It worked.  I received many requests for the full proposal and eventually was lucky enough to have a choice of agents. I chose Sarah Jane Freymann and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

Sarah Jane spent another couple of months helping me revise the proposal and re-work some of the writing sample. She was wonderful at pulling out a thread in the story that gave it staying power (because you know from the title that the dog and I both live…there had to be something else to keep the reader intrigued and she helped me focus on that). Also, she told me that I had to make her laugh and cry. Despite the fact that the book includes not one but two cancers, I had a much harder time with the “make ‘em cry” aspect—it’s just not in my nature. Eventually, we got there and the proposal went out on submission.

I’ll be honest—submission was tough. There seemed to be much excitement from publishers at first and then silence. I was in Fiji during the initial stages of submission (a pre-planned once in a lifetime trip) with limited internet access and drove myself (and probably the entire island we were on) nuts trying to check in. Yeah, um, it doesn’t really happen that fast. We got some “the dog book market is flooded” responses and some “the cancer memoir market is flooded” and the occasional “ugh, not another memoir” (okay, I’m paraphrasing that one). And then, finally, we started to get “I love it!”  And then, writer dream of all writer dreams, an editor called. Shana Drehs at Sourcebooks called and discussed her love of the book, our thoughts on the market, and, of course, dogs. Oh, and a publishing contract. (Yesssssssssss!!!!)

Then things got really interesting. See, for all the research I’d done on getting to this point (a publishing contract), I really knew very little past that. And there is so much to know! I signed with Sourcebooks in October, 2011. My completed manuscript was due January 4, 2012 (I made it!).  Somewhere in there I started getting sample covers and eventually we had the perfect cover. Per. Fect.


(Yes, that’s my actual dog. Their art director gave me a sample cover and a photographer friend took the photo.)

Shana edited the manuscript throughout January, then got it back to me for another round of rewrites toward the end of January, and I returned those edits to her on my birthday, February 17th (no better way to spend a birthday, and I’m not kidding!). Before I got to relax too much though, I learned the publisher’s sales conference was coming up…and this is key in publishing. How did I know this? Jacqueline Deval’s book “Publicize Your Book,” which my wonderful and very smart boyfriend had given me for Christmas.  The sales conference is when the publisher’s entire staff and outside sales team meets to discuss the upcoming season’s list of books. In other words, it’s the book’s public debut. Shana had asked me to make a book trailer…I had two made.






 I also thought food would be welcome, so I sent 75 of these cake pops (“Pup Pops”):


And I wanted them to remember the dog, so I sent 75 homemade dog treats in a “doggy bag.” The treats were green and directly related to an aspect of the book. I also sent bookmarks advertising the book. [I coordinated all of this through my editor and she was ecstatic to help. Fed Ex was also ecstatic with the cost of shipping. Ugh.] Overkill perhaps, but I had the time of my life watching the live tweeting during the sales conference as pictures of the pup pops were posted and comments on our video flew.  I knew it worked when I was immediately invited to attend the American Librarians Association annual convention (in Anaheim, CA)  and Book Expo America (in New York!  Another writer’s dream!)  to sign books at Sourcebooks booth.  Both events are in June and I cannot wait. Then I got a call from the sales and marketing director thanking me for all my efforts. I’ve never been so happy to miss a phone call—because now I have a voice mail message from him saying so many amazing things about the book and the promotion of it. Just this past week I learned the book will have a two page spread in their fall catalog. I have officially died and gone to new author heaven.

What’s up next is that my editor and I are finalizing the back cover copy; I’ll be meeting my publicist (by telephone) and working out marketing plans; I get the manuscript back from copyediting on March 29th and have 2 weeks to turn it around to them; and, all my editor is busy now and for a bit getting blurbs for the book, sending out review copies and finalizing the book.

All this before the book is even “real.” See why it just seems like a dream?

Perhaps I’ll be invited back to share with you my experiences as a new author at the ALA and BEA conferences and in promoting the book. We have many exciting plans for that! In the meantime, I’m happy to answer any questions…I’m sure I’ve left out part of this incredible journey, but my 1,000 words were up 100 words ago.

Teresa, I can hardly wait for your return visit!  This is an exciting story for many of us in many ways.  Congratulations on the upcoming publication and I wish you the greatest success with it.   Readers, now it's your turn--what would you like to ask Teresa?

Teresa's Blog can be found at:
http://thedoglived.blogspot.com/

Author website is:
teresarhyne.com   (to be activated soon if not already)


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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cloudy Days

raining sheetsraining sheets (Photo credit: mytimemachine)

       It's a cloudy day in L.A.   The forecast is rain starting Friday night and lasting into Sunday morning.  I don't mind. Here in Los Angeles rain is always welcomed.   Overcast skies stir memories for me, though sunny skies certainly invoke thoughts of good days as well.

        If I look at a cloudy day photo my typical reaction is that I'm looking at something cold, yet I know that a cloudy day is just as apt to be stifling hot as much as it might be bitter cold.   Perhaps it's the memories of snowy winter days or days of chilling rains.  Gray skies somehow seem dismal to many of us, but I have a fondness for cool cloudy days.

        A cool cloudy day invites me to stay inside and do indoor things.  My mind starts conjuring projects like cleaning closets or organizing books and CDs.  I dream of the day in bed just catching up on reading or darkening the living room and watching movies--perhaps all three Lord of the Rings DVDs viewed consecutively or something like that.   A day of nothing but relaxation sounds like a dream come true.  A cloudy rainy day invites just that.   The reality is that I probably won't do this.  

        When I was young and didn't have any real life supporting responsibilities to weigh me down, I could savor my cloudy days.  I would spend time organizing my stamp collection, building models, or just playing.  Somehow these activities felt immensely productive and meaningful and I suppose in a sense they were at the time.  There might even be cloudy days when I would clean out my closet or dresser drawers.  That especially felt like an accomplishment.

         There were always books.   I read voraciously rain or shine, but cloudy cold days were especially conducive to escaping in the written word.   We didn't have videos or DVDs then; I watched movies on television.  When the weather didn't invite me outdoors I might watch something on television if there was something worth watching.  It seemed like I was never at a loss to find something to entertain my time.

         Adulthood brought work responsibilities which sometimes meant going out into the cold gray of day whether I felt like it our not.  Leisure took a different form for me and came in smaller doses.  If I had an obligation I might have to face the rain and accept the cold.  That's life and I don't have a problem with that, but can I ever recapture that feeling that tomorrow will take care of itself and for now nothing else really matters?

          These days even though the days might be cloudy, it's difficult to keep my head in the clouds.

       
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Bit About Me

Awhile back I was tagged by Rossandra White to answer some questions.  As a rule I don't participate in this sort of thing, but since it is somewhat memoir related and I needed to fill some space today I'm going to play along.
1. If you could be any fictional baddie who would you be and why?
I don't want to be a bad guy, but I guess for this I'll go with Lex Luthor from Superman since Lex seems to be a pretty sophisticated and intelligent guy.
2. If you could go back in time and stop someone being born who would it be?
That breaks the rules of time travel so that's a no-no.  It could change the whole time continuum and the outcome of that could be worse that whatever really happened.
3. When do you get your most inspirational ideas?
Those ideas can come any time out of the blue, but I often get inspired when brainstorming with others.  It's like I feed off the energies present in creative company.
4.  If you had to live without either books or music, which would it be?
That's not a very good option to have to face, but if I absolutely had to choose one I'd go without books.   I could listen to the music and make up my own stories.
5.  Who provides the most encouragement for your writing?
Right now in this stage of my writing career it's my blog audience.  Hopefully eventually I'll have something published and have a reader base who will encourage me like my blog audience does now.   
6.  If you could have one wish, what would it be?

To have a life of absolute fulfillment.
7.  Do you remember your dreams and do they influence your writing?
Definitely--I even have a dream blog A Faraway View.
8.  What word do you frequently misspell?
Strangely enough I used to be a better speller.  Spell-check has made me a lazy speller and I frequently misspell words, but catch them right away.
9.  How much influence in your writing do you take from other people’s opinions?
I guess totally.  How can you be in society and not be affected by someone else's opinions?  I haven't been raised in isolation.
10. If there is one book you wish you’d written, what is it?
There are many.  How about I go with Son of the Morning Star by Evan S. Connell?  This is a great non-fiction book that is a history of General Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn.  I admire books that require research and putting it all together in a readable fashion.
11. Starter or Dessert?
No fair!  I love the starters, but I have to have something sweet to chase it.  I want the whole meal--starters, main courses, and desserts.

Rossandra and Doris Plaster at Hold My Hand each gave me the Versatile Blogger Award


I've done this award before and as in the past I'm supposed to share seven completely random facts about yourself.  If I repeat something I don't think anyone will notice.  So here goes:
Seven random things about myself:
  1. I tend to try to read all of the daily newspaper and consequently end up with stacks of them.
  2. I listen to a lot of talk radio during the day, but not Rush Limbaugh.
  3. My favorite pizza toppings are anchovies, onions, and jalapenos.   I rarely find anyone who wants to share this combination with me.
  4. I usually take a nap every day.
  5. I own more books that I have not read than I have read.
  6. I watched a lot of television when I was a kid, but I don't watch it much now.
  7. Once I start looking at Google it can be hard to get me away from it.  Same way with book stores and stores that sell CDs and DVDs.
Now, I'm supposed to pass these on to a certain number of other bloggers, but those who know me are probably aware that I've discontinued doing this.  So, if you'd like to claim any or all of this fun for your own you are welcome to it.   However, I do want to thank Rossandra and Doris for thinking of me.        

I'm accepting guest posts for Wrote By Rote starting after the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  If you have something you'd be interested in posting starting in May please let me know.  Also, if you know anyone who might have a good memoir topic to offer or if you would like to suggest an idea for me to post, I'd enjoy hearing what you have to say.



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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why Twitter Is Like a Road Trip

Sign for Wall DrugImage via Wikipedia
         When I was a kid my family frequently was on the road as we traveled to one place or another.  After I learned how to read, one of my favorite backseat activities on those trips was watching for the Burma Shave signs.  


          Burma Shave was an old-fashioned men's shaving cream product that resorted to an old school style of advertising--the roadside sign.  The product sign itself would be preceded by a series of small signs that would present a catchy poem or saying that sometimes was about the product, but also about topics like highway safety.


         Here is an example of a series of Burma Shave signs:

Ben
Met Anna
Made a hit
Neglected beard
Ben-Anna split
Burma-Shave




           Serial advertising signs are still in use although usually coming in billboard form along the interstates where signage is permitted.   Some examples are the signs between Houston and San Antonio advertising travel stop Buc-ee's, the billboards along I-90 for South Dakota attraction Wall Drug, and the roadside campaign hype teasing The Thing? in Arizona.  

            Long stretches of highway are sprinkled with the signs that begin to create an anticipation to see what's going to come next.  Eventually there is the payoff of the attraction, but were the signs enough to draw the traveler off the highway?  Did the signs keep the viewers entertained as they went on their journeys?

            When I go to the Twitter site I can't help be reminded of those serial signs.  Small doses in a few words try to grab hold of the surfer of the Twitterscape, but is the tweet powerful enough to make me look--cause me to be curious or remember what I've seen?   

           Traveling the web is like taking a journey without a vehicle, without leaving your home.  Taking in the blogs and websites is more like sitting back with a magazine or visiting the library.   Twitter is like a road trip where the road goes on forever and it's filled with Burma Shave signs.   But if the content doesn't grab me I may stop paying attention.  If I stop paying attention, I might miss that exit for Buc-ees.  If the lure of the words isn't strong enough, I might decide that The Thing? is just a rip-off and not worth my time.   

          The Burma Shave signs came in small doses and were memorable and clever.  They didn't get old because they left us wanting more.  We looked for them.  Twitter may be overkill.

           The Burma Shave bards might have put it this way:

 Tired eyes from        
 Too many tweets     
 Might cause this guy
   To fall asleep         

  Burma Shave




         
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