Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shutting down the E-zine

Today I sent out the farewell issue of the Burning the Midnight Oil Book Zine.

You can check it out here:


You can also check it out at the dmcwriter site here:


This decision did not come easily for me. This year was different from the last in that I was able to get each issue out EVERY month, with virtually everything it promised to readers. However, after the birth of my second child, my ability to keep up with it started to waiver. I was worried I wouldn't be able to devote as much time to it as before.

But there is an even bigger reason why I gradually decided to close it down. Change is in the wind, and I feel it. I FEEL it! Something big is headed my way in my life and I just won't have the time for this E-zine like I used to. I have absolutely no idea what that change is, only that it is....THERE. And so I know I must close down this E-zine. I must part ways with it.

I told myself I wasn't going to be sad, but when I saw the final issue online, my heart sank. I take solace in the fact that it looks good and offers some pretty inspirational material for readers, but after doing this E-zine for over 3 years, I've grown so attached to it. I was proud of the work I put into it (all by myself!) and I felt privileged to be a part of the "E-zine publisher" crowd.

Still, this must be done. There are other reasons why I decided to shut it down, which I'd rather not go into detail here, but the BIG MAIN REASON is because life is taking a turn for me in 2008, and I know I must be ready for whatever it is God has planned for me.

I'm grateful for the experience of having published an E-zine. I'm grateful for the lessons I had to learn the hard way and for ALL of the support and advice other E-zine publishers have given to me. I am grateful for their friendship, as well. It was an honor to be a part of their crowd and I won't be ending this experience with a single bad memory during the time they were all there for me.

The readers were there for me, too. Their emails touched me, inspired me and brought joy to my heart. I am thankful I was able to use this E-zine as a means of bringing joy to theirs.

As I said in the editorial, I'll continue to write about my experiences as a writing parent. I'll continue to write articles and put together "writing parent tips" should new ones come to me. Whether or not all of that will find a way into print remains to be seen. Who knows, it just may mean a new book.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Writing by example

So today I heard back from a small publisher about my proposal for the essay collection. They said they won't be taking on my book at this time, though they'd like to keep it on file if they decide to publish it in the future. I pretty much took this as a flat-out rejection. They did say, "If you have the opportunity to publish the book elsewhere, do so." (I'm paraphrasing here.) So, I've decided to look elsewhere. They're going to put more energy behind their own series, anyway. No problem. Fine with me.

I checked with some other small/independent publishers (the type of company I want to publish this book with), and found a couple I could try. One of them is not open to submissions until June, 2008, so I'll start with the other one.

The other one said to send the first chapter (in this case, it would be the first essay), the book's outline and the proposal. I pulled up the very first essay in this book, which in truth I have not laid eyes on for a looong time. (I started this book 3 years ago.) And I read it.

It was awful. Seriously, as I moved from one word to the next, I was literally squirming in my seat, dying a little inside with each sentence.


So after I finished reading, I made some notes on how to improve the essay, all the while wondering just WHEN I'll find the time to work on it. (These days, the baby isn't sleeping very much. Good Lord, I've given birth to ANOTHER "Tornado." Sigh.)

What exactly was wrong with the essay?

For one thing, it sounded too preachy. I've written and read A LOT of material since then, and I know that if the essay sounds too preachy, it's going to be a HUGE turn-off for readers.

Another problem with it is that it doesn't offer anything concrete to back up its claims. Particularly, no real-world examples to support its argument.

One thing I have done with the essay writing is changing how I present what I am trying to say. If I'm trying to make an argument for something, one thing I do is use real life to illustrate why this argument is sound. It may not be the BEST solution, but because it is one that has worked for one person, I use it as a way of showing this argument has merit.

I also try to allow real life retellings to take up the bulk of the essay's format, something a la a Chicken Soup for the Soul essay. I'll tell a story of something that happened and how that something reinforced what the essay is trying to say. In one essay, for example, I lament over a common sentiment felt by deaf parents: How we can't ever hear our child's voice. Or even REALLY hear it (even with a hearing aid, sound is still artificial). So I used an experience I had in which my child and I were on the couch together one evening, enjoying a movie, and of how she told me she loves me and how that made me realize we don't NEED to hear them to feel that bonding love with our children. I used this as an example of why we don't need to hear them, even as we mourn not being able to. I think in some way, readers can better relate to that sentiment and come to terms with their own feelings on the subject.

I know that my experiences in real life are unique. Not everybody has the same life, the same experiences. But I think as long as the experience touches on one which readers have had, too, even something SIMILAR to my own, I still think sharing my story can add strength to what I am trying to say. I suppose anything else would be better than something that is preachy, at least.

(On another note, I should keep in mind that the very first chapter/essay a publisher reads is representative of the rest of the book. It tells them what they should expect to see in the REST of the manuscript, and they use this as part of their consideration over whether or not they'll accept the book. So the first essay/chapter should definitely be at its very best. If it's too preachy, chances are the publisher will expect the rest of the book to be written the same way.)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Experience and expertise

One book I recently read was EDITORS ON EDITING, edited by Gerald Gross. Although the only time I am "editor" is when it comes to my E-zine and editing my own work, this book was still very helpful to read. One way it helped was in understanding the way the publishing world works. I know a writer who once told me that one nonfiction book I'm shopping around will have a better chance of getting published if I co-author it with someone who has more prominence in this field. My thinking is that, because the book is just an essay collection and not some self-help book or something meant to offer guidance to readers, it doesn't need to go there. However, there IS one nonfiction book I am doing which COULD definitely use a co-author. Specifically, someone with more expertise on the subject.

I am talking about my book on haunted houses. The same book I have been working on for 4 years!!

In one essay in EDITORS ON EDITING, written by Toni Burbank, I came across this passage: "I'd rather have a book with some tooth-marks on it, some signs of turmoil. ... For me, the best self-help writer is the person who has personally wrestled with and overcome a problem." I really started thinking about that. I also pondered over how the author of a nonfiction book should be someone with professional credentials, someone who is personable and willing to be "on the circuit" with workshops and talk show appearances.

That last part filled me with dread. I have done public readings before. But never have I done a workshop. Never have I been on a talk show. And these days....I don't want to do those things, either. I'd....rather not. Thank you. Seriously, I am a VERY solitary, private person. I MAY be married and have children and enjoy the company of my friends, but I am not a BIG extrovert. I'm not a "people person" and I just....DON'T want to be on TV. LOL Seriously, that is just NOT something I aspire to in life.

But my thinking of getting a co-author for this book isn't so I can shirk the promotional obligations or grab the co-author and say, "Here! Put THIS ONE on your talk show!" (Though that IS an attractive thought. Heh, heh.) It's more to do with the fact of what I am bringing to this book. I am in no way of the same level of expertise or experience as, say, the Warrens, Hans Holzer or John Zaffis. (Although John IS included in my book. I was SO EXCITED to get that interview!!!) So maybe it would be BEST if the book was co-authored by someone who is. The only thing I AM bringing to this book is my experience with a haunted house. I HAVE lived in one. True, I also have contacts with people and "other" experts who have really contributed their time and knowledge to this book (these people have been AWESOME to work with!!!!), and I HAVE written about haunted houses for the Shadowlands, but I'm not really an "authority" on the subject. And I realized that there should be an author involved in this book who is!

Still, I wasn't ready to jump on that idea just yet. There was one other thing I worried about: What if the writer I'm paired up with (via the publisher) is someone more interested in sensationalizing the paranormal instead of giving it the full respect that it deserves? I know there are writers out there AND so-called "paranormal icons" who twist things around for profit and fame. They USE the paranormal field for their own selfish, egotistical and financial gain. The paranormal field IS a popular one these days. I mean, look at the popularity behind shows such as "Medium" and "Ghost Hunters." People eat this stuff up. And there ARE people in this field who will take advantage of that, sensationalize or fabricate stories, just so they can get their name into print or get people to buy their stuff. (This is one unfirtunate side of the paranormal industry. There are just fakes and hoaxers out there.)

I happen to take the paranormal VERY seriously. Sure I am first and foremost a skeptic, but I believe in these kinds of things happening. But if something isn't true, if something has a scientific explanation, then I'm going to proceed with that kind of approach in mind. And I wanted a co-author who would feel the same way. Someone who respects the paranormal, who approaches it realistically and isn't in this for "fame and fortune."

So I emailed another person I knew who feels the same way about it: Martha Jette, a Canadian writer who has spent several years writing about the paranormal and investigating reports. (She also included me in her book GLIMPSES 2: IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU. Yes, that's my shameless plug. LOL!) She emailed me back saying she'd be delighted to co-author the book with me. I was THRILLED!! I'm so excited that someone who feels the same way about the paranormal is willing to work with me on this book. Someone with more expertise and "stripes." Someone who is also a friend and has assured me she won't "twist" the book around for her own financial gain.

I am very happy about this. In no way do I feel bad that I "have" to have a co-author for one of my books. It doesn't make me feel bad at all. I KNOW I don't have the "expertise" on the subject this book will need. I am doing what is best for the book, what is best for the readers. And I'm just so grateful that, at the very least, the person who will be co-authoring this book is one who is just as honest about it as I am.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bad first drafts

I'm a firm believer that sometimes, you HAVE to write junk. Specifically, bad first drafts. There are so many times that I've written first drafts of something that just stunk to high heaven, but I wrote them, anyway, because I knew I had to "get it out" and onto paper (or the screen!). Sometimes, things just get so jumbled together when we write the first drafts and writing those first drafts allows us to at least set the "foundation" of what we really want to write. It allows us to wade through the mess and get it all organized.

There was an essay I'd written for my essay collection. First I wrote up the outline and made notes on who to solicit quotes from. Since I couldn't get the quotes, I reslanted the piece and wrote it pretty much true to the outline. Still, I wasn't happy with the first draft. It was just....God-awful. It rambled. It made NO SENSE. It had insufficient material and just bad, bad writing. I was NOT HAPPY with it!

I put the essay away for a while and worked on other things. Meanwhile, I resigned that junk first draft to the "workshop in my mind," mentally tinkering with it every so often and figuring out how I'd fix it when I had the opportunity to fix it.

Yesterday was that opportunity. I had the time to type it up. So I typed it and, with the outline still in place in my head, I practically ignored the first draft and wrote up a brand new and much improved second draft. The second draft is WAY better and WAY more improved than the first, and even though I'm happy with it, I'm still going to ask some beta readers to give it a look and also edit it, if I feel it needs any tweaking.

After that, I felt really accomplished and satisfied with the work. Finally, I was HAPPY with the essay! I'm just glad I didn't look at the lousy first draft and decide fixing it was a lost cause. Because, really, improving a piece is what the purpose of even having a first draft is for.


Friday, December 14, 2007

New baby, new attitude

Sometimes there is just so much I want to write, and so little time to write it all.

Yesterday I was chatting with my editor about the novel revisions. Or, at least, TRYING to chat. She informed me she was really, REALLY busy at the mo and couldn't talk about it right now. That's ok, I said. And really, it WAS ok, because I was soon lost in thought on three different things I wanted to write. I was LITERALLY lost in thought; I was thinking so much on one such thing, which was an essay I want to submit to this anthology, that I can't even remember what I was doing or even staring at while thinking about it. (This reminds me of the time I was staring at the bookcase, thinking about something to write, when Jennifer got my attention and asked what I was looking at. My response: "I'm not looking at anything. I'm thinking.")

As caught up as I was in these three things I wanted to write then and there, I only had the chance yesterday to write two of them. I even cut out some of my normal fanaticism with the housecleaning just so I could have more time to write! But I could only manage two of them. That's ok, I'm not going to beat myself up over it. At least I got a good amount of writing done for the day! It's better than nothing and at least it was TWO things I wrote out of those three, and not one or....zero.

Since having the baby, I've adopted the attitude that I will write a little here and a little there, instead of doing all of it in one full swoop. And so far, that attitude has been working out pretty well. I've STILL managed to write every day, thanks to that very approach. When the baby is older, THEN I'll be able to throw myself into writing more!


Monday, December 10, 2007

I have met the enemy and the enemy is me

So my editor recently said "why don't you make your antagonist a certain way"? I won't get into the details about what that "certain way" is (you'll have to READ THE BOOK to find out! ;) ), but her request left me stumped. HOW was I gonna do it??

I thought good and hard on this for a while. Just how would I make my character have this sort of..."thing" going on with him?

Then as I was sorting through the laundry the other day and thinking about someone's blog post I'd read, and something I'd said in my comment, it struck me. I had that "ah-ha!" moment.

What I'd said in my comment was something along the lines of how I once did something, too. Then I started thinking more on that....adding two and two and THAT led to me figuring out a solution! Just how I was going to fix just ONE part of my antagonist that the editor and I have been working on! SWEET!

It's kind of eerie, though...That once upon a time, I used to be a "certain way" with people. But, it's all good. You know? On one hand, I'm not like that any more. And on the other...it's all grist for the story mill.


Friday, December 07, 2007

More memorable than any kind of writing accomplishments ever

A little over a month ago, I gave birth to my second child. My son was born almost 3 weeks early, but he was a very healthy baby. When I held him in my arms for the first time, I had tears in my eyes. He was the second most precious gift I had ever received in this life!! There is nothing in the whole world that can equal the sheer magic and joy of holding your newborn child in your arms.

A friend told me if I am not remembered for my writing, then at least I will be remembered for my children. And, you know what? If I never reach the kind of success I want to achieve as an author, I will still die happy, because I had my children. They mean so much more to me than any kind of fame or fortune in the whole wide world!!! And they mean more to me than any kind of fame my writing could ever give to me.

Of course this doesn't mean that, because I've had children, I'm satisfied with my life and just going to stop trying to obtain some level of success with my vocational goals. But it does mean that, if I fail in the end, if I end up NOT being remembered after I am gone, at least I will leave behind a part of myself that I took the most pride in being a part of creating.