Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Making a good book great

Once, a friend of mine, who has her own editing service ( http://www.wordmountain.com/ ), made a suggestion to me about my essay collection on deaf parenting: Team up with an expert or professional to make this book not so much about MY experiences as a deaf parent, but more of a book ABOUT deaf parenting.

There are two reasons why I eventually decided not to do this. One is that I was worried that, if I did that, it would kill it. The end result would NOT be a book in support of deaf parenting or something to actually HELP deaf parents, but it'd turn into a book where deaf parents might as well be laboratory rats underneath the looming telescopic lens of the world.

Here is the other reason: Once upon a time, I got so much criticism and grief from family members who knew I was writing this book. They essentially mocked my qualifications for writing it, chiding me about not being an expert and how, if I made a comment about parenting, they'd sarcastically suggest, "You should put that in your book." Because of this, after extensive soul-searching and being angry at them for judging me and my book, a book they hadn't even READ, I decided to just make it a "personal book." Just publish it as an essay collection, nothing more. Make it a "how I do it" type of book, instead of something that said "this is how you can do it, too."

So I went about my merry way, fixing up the book to make it more personal and making sure there was NOTHING in there in which I come across as a "wannabe expert." I figured this was just as good, you know? It would STILL offer some tips and techniques on how to handle deaf parenting, and it may even inspire other deaf parents with ideas and support.

Then I started talking to deaf parents about this book and all of a sudden I heard a cry from them. A cry that said, "WE NEED THIS BOOK!" Basically, there were deaf parents out there struggling with poor confidence, low self-esteem and a host of discrimination episodes from teachers, doctors and friends. Even their own family members! There were deaf parents out there who didn't know what to do, where to turn, and how to find the resources that they needed.

One thing about this book is that there is nothing else like it on the market. There is NO OTHER book on deaf parenting giving readers, both hearing and deaf, such a generous inside look at the world of a deaf parent. And since this book will be filling that void, why not take it the extra mile?

Instead of making it my story...why not make it instead my sword? My sword to give to deaf parents.

Like Jesus said in the Bible, "I do not come to bring peace, but a sword." He gave His people weapons to fight their battles with. And I think my book should do the same thing. It should give other deaf parents out there exactly what they need to keep on keepin' on.

The problem is, I don't know what EXACTLY I should add to this book to make it do that. Besides a list of resources, pictures and magazine/newspaper articles to read. I thought of asking other deaf parents out there to contribute their own stories, but then that'd turn this book into an anthology and there's NO WAY I would do an anthology! Then I thought I could include articles in the book -- maybe my SIGNews articles on deaf parenting? -- but I'm not sure if that'll be sufficient. I just don't know how to take this book a step further to make it the valuable resource that deaf parents need.

But, I'll think of something.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Typos and redundancies

I've been working on the edits for my essay collection. I'm pleased with the resuts, though the progress is slow. Maybe that's a good thing; it gives me more time to think on everything covered in the book and what other things I can write about.

There are two common writing mistakes that keep creeping into my edits, though: Typos and redundancies. I ALWAYS have problems with typos. I can read something again and again until my eyes bleed, and I will still miss a typo or two. It stinks! :( So of course I'll have to go back and fix them.

With redundancies, I've noticed that, lately, I'm more relentless in catching them. I don't ALWAYS catch them -- some of them slip right by -- but I try to catch them then make those changes, too.

As an example of a redundancy, here's an excerpt from one recently edited essay:

"The more I have used these methods to communicate with hearing parents, the more my confidence grows in even being able to communicate and network with them. However, what I truly believe contributes to this success in establishing good communication with them is their acceptance of my deafness."

I took out "in establishing good communication with them" because that's what the paragraph is ALREADY talking about (and what was covered in the previous sentence), so it doesn't need to be included here. (Hmm, on that note, maybe I should also omit "in even being able to communicate and network with them.")

I've also noticed unnecessary words -- such as "with" and "anyway" -- and passive voice, but the above two mistakes are the major ones I've been weeding out lately.

I only hope the typo problem isn't still there when I submit the manuscript to a publisher.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Blog mention!

I got mentioned in someone's blog!

I sent an email to my friend, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of books such as The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't and the wonderful poetry collection, Tracings. I wrote to her because I was stumped about something. Previously, I'd posted a poem on deviantART for critique. Someone pointed out how he/she wasn't sure if "abuse/truce" could be used as a rhyme. My thinking was that the pronunciation differences determined whether or not they could be used as a rhyme, and not so much how they were spelled. So I contacted Carolyn, poet extraordinaire, about this and she responded with her feedback. She asked for permission to include this in her newsletter and I said, "Sure. I'm interested in seeing further discussion on this, anyway." So I read her newsletter and started making notes on another thing I wanted to comment on when I e-mailed her my thanks. When I got to the part where she talked about my poetry dilemma, I was surprised to see that not only had she mentioned it in her newsletter, but on her blog, as well.


Thank you so much, Carolyn!! You made my day!

If you wanna have a look, check it out here: http://www.sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com/

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fixing an essay

As I've posted about before, I'm trying to fix an essay in my essay collection. I've already outlined the problems with it, so I won't go into those details. However, as far as trying to fix it is concerned, that hasn't been going very well.

At first I tried to mentally work out the kinks with this essay. Just keep going over it to figure out how to fix it. I wrote up a new outline and highlighted the point I wanted to make with it. Finally, I decided to just STOP thinking about it and just write it!

But when I sat down to write the next draft of it, I had to give it some serious thought first. The big question I kept asking myself: Is it relevant? Does it really NEED to go into this book? What EXACTLY is this essay trying to say? Why is it important? What does it offer on the theme of deaf parenting?

I recently read an essay collection, and as I read that book, I noted the various angles covered relating to the book's subject. I am trying to do the same with this book, but even as I questioned the essay's relevancy, I was still lost over what exactly this essay was trying to say.

I noted how I kept straying from my topic when I talked about how hearing parents try to "fix" their deaf kids with cochlear implants, and the psychological implications which result (the deaf child questioning their place in deaf society, among them). This didn't really belong in there because the whole book isn't about deaf kids with hearing parents, it's about a deaf parent with a hearing kid. The tables are turned in this case, and even as the topic was relevant to the study of deafness in family relationships, it just didn't belong in there.

Still, even as I asked myself questions and constantly went over the outline, I still couldn't figure out how to put this essay together. I still couldn't decide on what exactly this essay was trying to say.

So I just wrote it. I wrote it anyway, and even then I couldn't decide if it was right. I even asked my husband to read the first paragraph for some input. His reaction? "It doesn't tell me anything new." Maybe that's what's wrong with it. It has recycled information. Maybe if I tried doing more research on the topic, I could get a better idea of what I want this essay to say. Also, I could go over the other essays to see what's covered, and what isn't.

Additionally, I am keeping one very important detail in mind: This IS the first essay in the book. The very first one. Readers checking the book out in a bookstore won't bother reading the Introduction or Foreword to decide if they will buy the book or not; they read Chapter One. Or, in this case, the very first essay. (A friend of mine has a rule of reading the first 10 pages of every book before he'll decide whether or not he'll buy it.) That said, this essay IS important, because it represents what the rest of the book is going to offer. It's going to represent the kind of "attitude" the author has about this topic, the kind of approach he/she takes writing these essays, the kind of tone used and whether or not the essays will provide readers with something to think about or something new or something that will inspire/motivate them. This particular essay is the first one everybody will judge the book with, and that's a lot of pressure thrown in. So that is why the question of relevancy is so important. And that is why this particular essay must be handled with care. If it takes several drafts to get it right, then it's several drafts which I will write. I'll keep writing it and keep writing it, until the essay says exactly what I originally set out to say with it.

I'm also going to try to hunt down a few beta readers. I wanted to wait until I finished editing/revising the whole thing, but since I'm at odds with the very first essay in this book, maybe it wouldn't hurt to get just this one essay read so that I can move on to the others. It might help make the rest of the job easier, to say the least.

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