Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Q&A with Andrea Richesin: On Love, Rejection, Research, and Publishing

Andrea N. Richesin has compiled four anthologies in about as many years. All deal with love and relationships; each has a unique focus. Her latest, Crush, offers up 26 writers' recollections of their teenage (or sometimes nearly adult) crushes, first loves, and some of the lessons learned along the way.

While Richesin is busy (she's at work on book #5), she graciously found time to answer a few of my questions about her publishing experience.

Please describe the process you've used to create these anthologies. Did you ask the writers to create the essays specifically for this book? If so, how did you select the writers?
The process begins with the kernel of an idea. I’ve chosen topics I’ve personally grappled with myself like turning 30 (this now seems laughable on the cusp of 40, but running out of time was a neurotic obsession that plagued me) and the mother-daughter relationship. Then I contact the writers I admire and slowly begin to solicit their synopses. We often have an email correspondence about what their pieces will entail. They’re revealing very intimate details of their lives. So I feel honored that they have agreed to share these moments with me and to contribute their work. Once my agent and I have polished the final book proposal, she sends it to prospective editors. It’s usually only a bare outline of what the book will eventually become, but it’s a beginning. After I have a contract in place, I commission essays for the collection.
Did you have to turn down some of the essays you received, because they were too racy, too dull, or just ... not quite right? (And if so, how did you approach the rejection process?)   
Yes, unfortunately, I had to reject a few essays. That’s obviously the hardest part of editing an anthology. I occasionally have to turn away an essay because either it’s not a good fit for the collection or it doesn’t really address the theme of the book. In some instances, the writer is removed from the experience and it doesn’t feel authentic. I have offered kill fees to the writers who haven’t been included.
What does your writing/research schedule look like? (If you don't really have one, please let us know; it's encouraging to many of us!)
I’m the most disorganized person in the world. So I don’t have a schedule, although I do have deadlines to my publisher. This tends to rein in my efforts a bit. Otherwise, I would probably go on looking for essays forever. As for my own writing, I almost only write when inspiration strikes me. I realize this is very bad of me, but I’m afraid I’m not a shining example for your readers.
Did you have any sticky situations with the writers collected in these anthologies? Blown deadlines? Hurt feelings during the editing process? 
In the past, I’ve had to contend with hurt feelings a few times. I recognize that I’ve asked the contributors to bravely expose themselves and as a result, if their essays don’t suit the collection, that’s uncomfortable for me to admit. I would never presume to tell the writers with whom I work how to do their jobs. After all, they’re professional writers making their livelihood at this, but I would hope that they would respect my opinion and humbly accept my decision.
Truth time: do you have a manuscript tucked away in a desk drawer? what's it about?
I have made some half-hearted attempts at a memoir that I hope to one day finish. My mother’s parents’ legacy fascinates me and also serves as a cautionary tale. I would love to reinterpret it as a beautiful southern gothic fairy tale. I’d also like to preserve their memories and what they meant to me personally for my daughter and future generations.
That sounds very interesting! Thanks, Nicki, for your time and candid answers. Best of luck with Crush, and all that comes after. 

Spend more time with the author: www.nickirichesin.com


Friday, May 27, 2011

Do You Need the Challenge of a Writing Contest?

Motivation is a mighty interesting thing, and writing contests really illustrate the point.

Will you write for food? A t-shirt? An Amazon gift card? OK. Just remember to read the rules, terms and conditions carefully (if for no other reason than some poor writer labored over them) and if the contest charges an entry fee, read them again. Carefully.

Still rarin' to go? Here, a few contests underway now:

Grate Righter, Bad Speler Contest (No I'm not kidding! This is my favorite!)
Contest closes at 12 AM CST on Sunday, May 29, 2011

Soaring Above Essay Contest (Looking for personal accounts re: overcoming obstacles)
Entries due May 31, 2011 

Fiction in Five June Contest (750-1,000 words on writing prompt, given upon request)
Entries due June 6, 2011. Entry fees are due June 3. Hmmm.

Good luck and haf fun! (I'd love to see your entries for the first contest.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Think Social Media Isn't Worth the Time?

Is customer service a fad? I don't think so.

Is social media? Doubt it.

Business owners who don't "get" social media need to get a grip: customer service (translation, staying in business) and social media are inseparable.

If you don't show your customers some social media love, someone else will. And there's a very good chance, no matter how much they love you, you will be drowned out by the tsunami of other voices in the increasingly (digitally) social world.

Watch this, and you'll get it:


Show your customers some social media love, build relationships online, just don't go AWOL.

Need some help crafting your online message? It's probably easier and less expensive than you think.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Online Editing Tips from ACES: Readers Notice Sloppy Writing

I'm not convinced that the web spells the death of decent writing. Sue Burzynski Bullard of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) recently offered 8 tips to improve online editing, especially for news sites. My favorites:

4. Be transparent. “Tell us what you know and how you know it...and tell us what you don’t know.”  (One of my aha! moments in J-school came when a professor told us: what you leave out of the story can bias it as much as what you put in.~ Diane)


8. Quality counts. . ."..readers notice sloppiness whether online or in print."

All 8 tips -- all worth reading -- here:
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Animoto for Authors

Want to make a 30-second commercial for free? You can, with Animoto. While the "lite" version is free, a more full-bodied program that can make longer videos (among other things) is available for $5/month.

Below, a video promoting the new edition of my hiking guide, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Cleveland, available in June. Happy hiking...and happy movie making!

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting Good Directions

 When I was a freshman in high school, my art teacher inspired me to be a writer. He probably didn't mean to, but that's what happened when he began our class by teaching from the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It introduced me to the idea that the left- and right-hemispheres of our brains handle different things, or (more accurately) handle things differently.

At first, I was dumbstruck to find that I could draw something that looked remotely realistic. I just followed the book's directions and ta-da! That head actually seemed to fit on that body!

Before we finished with the book, I had learned two important things: I have no artistic talent, and by following the author's directions I could draw better.

I still love good directions, and I think writing them is something of an art. If my words can inspire you to assemble a shelf without dissembling the room where you're working, well, isn't that a beautiful thing? I know things can get ugly when I follow bad directions.
Still developing my artistic side.

Recently, I tried to enter a photography contest. (Guess I'm still developing my artistic side.) I was confused by the entry rules,  requested and got clarification, ultimately deciding the entry process was more trouble than it was worth. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt that way: The contest was cancelled due to lack of entries.

Directions matter. Marketing efforts and customer service initiatives can fail because of bad directions. Businesses can be sued because of bad directions. (Think of the poor DIY-er surrounded by the tools and pieces/parts of that shelf assembly. Misleading directions + a hammer = a lawsuit waiting to happen)

Directions seem pretty mundane, I know. Directions don't have to inspire, but they should - at least - direct. The next time you encounter crystal-clear, helpful, easy-to-read directions, I hope you'll think kindly of the person who wrote them. And whenever you find yourself in a nasty spot because of some bad directions, please, put down the hammer.

Question for my freelance/technical writer friends: have you ever gotten a job because you pointed out the inaccuracies in an organization's directions?