Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fair or unfair? You decide

For some time, I was a member of an online group of writers who talked writing, book promotion, self-publishing and anything related to the writing world. I participated in some of the discussions, bookmarked interesting blog posts and articles, and checked out books by some of the members in the group. All that changed on the day the group’s moderator sent out a message to all group members, which prompted me to not only leave the group but also delete all of this author’s emails from my email account.

The message that caused this change of heart?

The moderator outlined what could and could not happen in the group. Fair enough, except that I was puzzled over how she said that members of the group who are authors and freelance editors could not promote their books or services in any way. I could understand not allowing posts that screamed "CHECK OUT MY NEW BOOK!!!" or "BUY MY BOOK AND CHANGE YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW!!" Of course, these kinds of posts are just … spam. They are not relevant discussions or thought-provoking insights on anything currently being discussed or part of current events. They’re just advertisements. And that’s uncool.

A savvy author knows there are certain ways of promoting their book (as well as editors promoting their services), and that’s perfectly acceptable. Including your book info in your signature is one such method, as is mentioning how a topic is covered in a chapter of your book.

But because this moderator said an author cannot promote their book or service "in any way," meaning those little methods are not allowed, it was a big turn-off. Reluctantly, I accepted this, thinking that if someone was interested in my post enough, they could click on my profile and see my books there. But then the moderator did something that really upset me: She sent out another message to the group, promoting her books, her site and her services.


I was so outraged by this that I left the group and deleted all of her messages from my email account. (Don’t worry; it’s not one of you authors out there I know, am acquainted with and adore). This was hard to do, given this particular author has a lot of credibility (which she now destroyed with me), has years of experience in book promotion and has a lot of good advice out there for writers and authors. Still, I couldn’t stand this act of hypocrisy. It was just unfair of her to say to all of us authors in her group “You can’t promote your book in any way at all in my group” then turn around and promote her books. That just wasn’t right.

Some people may think an author’s character should not be a factor in whether or not we associate with them, buy their books or promote their work. However, I don’t feel comfortable in supporting and promoting a fellow author who has questionable character and treats others unfairly. As it is, if an author I ask permission to quote in my work is rude or does not respond to my requests, I’ll pass on that author and look elsewhere. The same goes for a fellow author who is not fair to their readers or supporters. Like I say, if you don’t give the love, you don’t get it back. And I think members of an online group of writers need all the love they can get.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where to begin?

A lot of times, it's easy for me to start writing something new. What I usually do is carry things around in my head for a while, let them stew and build up, until I just have to let the words come out onto paper. But sometimes, the well can run dry, and I can't think of the right words to write. This happened to me when I was faced with a deadline. I had everything I needed to write my article, but no words to get me started. I needed a lead. If I had my lead, I'd be good to go. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with one.

I gave that some time. I figured, if I didn't force it, I could come up with something to write in the lead. But then the days just kept passing by and I couldn't think of anything. Sometimes, getting started is the hardest thing to do with your writing. The beginning is so important, and I just couldn't figure out how, or where, to begin.

Usually, when I have this problem, I go over what I learned in my journalism class. Should I use the summary lead? The dramatic lead? A question? My mind would run through the options, trying to come up with something for each.

And sometimes, that works. Only this time, it didn't.

So I let it linger a bit longer. I know, I had that DEADLINE looming over me. But I know I could not rush this. I HAD to let the words come to me on their own.

And, finally, they did. It took a shower for me to get my lead. (Water is a creative's best friend.) I had it! I finally had it!

Except, I didn't write it down then and there. It's not like I could, anyway. I rushed through finishing the shower and then...it was gone. Those perfect, beautiful, Pulitzer Prize-winning words disappeared.


When my deadline came, I was determined to get my article written up and turned in. But still, the words eluded me. So I tried writing out various leads -- another thing I do to get the ball rolling.

That didn't work, either.

Finally, I did something I don't normally do: I logged onto Twitter. While I was supposed to be WORKING! I had everything for the article in front of me but, at the same time, had Twitter open, too. I read the tweets while at the same time, working on that lead in that "workshop in my head." (I do this with movies, too. I'll be watching a movie while also working out a story problem in my head. My family has gotten used to me jumping off of the couch and crying out "that's it!" while somebody is getting the crap beaten out of them on TV.)

I don't normally log in at Twitter while I'm writing. I used to do this -- while editing, too -- but moving my eyes away from Twitter to read a paragraph then coming back to see 85 new tweets to catch up on got to be a little too...much for me. So I stopped doing that.

Then I did it again, while struggling with this article's lead. Sometimes, I use other diversions -- like reading articles, going into "super cleaning" mode with things in the house (my microwave, in fact, was once all shiny after I was done with it because I was having trouble writing something), or bouncing a basketball around. But that evening, I used Twitter.

What's interesting is that it worked. Eventually, I had my lead and, a few moments later, while I was deep into the writing, I remembered I was logged in at Twitter. I sent out a last tweet, logged out, and got back to the article. I wrote up that whole article and turned it in. Yay!

I'll keep Twitter in mind as a diversion if I have trouble with the writing again. Maybe.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

It’s a Free Country – Except in Publishing

Attention aspiring writers: Gatekeepers exist for a reason. You know them: The people who wade through a bazillion submissions of books, essays, short stories, poems and articles to find that gem they’re ready to publish. They are commonly known as an “editors.” But when you are a self-publishing writer, you are (usually) your own editor. In fact, when it comes to having no gatekeeper at all, the same self-publishing writer may assume they have the right to publish any old thing they want to publish. And that’s where things can get dangerous.

A writer self-published a book through Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing program that promotes a crime: Molesting children. The person committing this horrible act against a child is known as a “pedophile.” Remember that word because it’s part of the title: The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure.

I was first alerted to this yesterday when I got an email from a cousin about it. “Boycott Amazon!” the email blared. Huh? I thought. What’s that about? I may devour news items on the Internet every day and read as many newspapers as I can get my hands on, but this was unknown to me. I did some checking around on the ‘Net. Then I realized there’s one place to go to get the information I needed: Blogs. I checked the list of “Blogs I read” on my Palms to Pines blog and, thankfully, Jenna Glatzer blogged about this. I read her post and, needless to say, the whole situation made me sick.

What’s worse is that Amazon.com was apparently not giving a crap about it.

Their reasoning is that they cannot censor what people publish through their site. Oh, it may be a free country, Amazon, but it’s not so free in book publishing!

See, this is what the gatekeepers are for: To filter out the garbage. I suspect the author may have tried (and failed) to publish his book through a traditional press, only to self-publish it after it was (rightfully) rejected. Sometimes, there’s a VERY good reason why a book is rejected for publication.

And it should have been rejected by Amazon, but it wasn’t.

Fortunately, there is strength in numbers. It would seem that enough people on the World Wide Web made such an outcry about the sale of this book, that Amazon finally came to its senses and removed it. Good riddance!

A writer who will try to enter a contest or submit a short story to an anthology will often see this warning in the submission guidelines: “We will not publish anything that promotes racism, violence, crimes against children, rape and hate crimes.” Or, something to that effect. That kind of writing promoting that kind of activity will only encourage readers of such material who do such things to think that, gee, that stuff must be a pretty good idea if there are other people promoting it!

But, no. That sort of thing is NOT a good idea. Neither is molesting children. I have no sympathy for a pedophile. They are sick and predatory. I know people who were molested as children and they still struggle with the nightmare of it all. This book was probably written with the warped and twisted POV of a pedophile, which makes it even more dangerous. Apparently, the author has no qualms about sexually abusing a child, and thinks encouraging other pedophiles to keep doing what they’re doing is something worth writing a book about.

But no book like this should ever be in print. Not ever. There shouldn’t be books promoting the “fun” of rape, explaining away the reason why more people should be allowed to commit hate crimes, or even encouraging a pedophile in their attacks against children. And, yes, that’s the kind of category this book falls into. It is just one more thing promoting something that is wrong in this world.

We may live in a free country, but it’s not so free in the publishing world. You are not free to promote your hatred, your poisons and your twisted logic over committing a crime. There are gatekeepers who will refuse to allow hateful and criminal material from seeing print. We need more of them.

UPDATE: This may be helpful to concerned parents.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

The virtual editing session

Virtual meetings are not new to me. In the past, I've blogged about successfully attending a teleconference that was very deaf-friendly, as well as "meeting" online with editors via private chat rooms. As it is, I'll occasionally chat with my editor of Spook City (when she has that time to chat, that is). I'm not as big about chatting online as I used to be, but business is business, and when it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Because of my deafness, it's pretty much the most commonly preferred alternative to a phone conversation.

Yet recently, I was a part of an editing session that everyone, deaf and hearing, participates in for this publisher: Editing via Google Docs. I've never gone through the editing stages of a book this way, or even had the chance to actually "see" what changes are being made. Usually, manuscripts are edited sight unseen, then sent back to me via email to go over. If I have any comments or request any changes, all of that is discussed via email. It's not done as though the two (or three) of us are in one virtual "conference room."

This time, however, I was in that virtual conference room, watching as sentences were being deleted, notes were being made about something that needed to be double-checked, and portions of the manuscript were changed around. It was all right there for the viewing -- as well as for the discussion between myself and the editor. For example, the editor indicated one sentence that was not clear to her, so we had a discussion about that while the page was right in front of both of us.

It was an interesting experience. I can't say I prefer to go through the edits this way, however. True, it's convenient in that we can talk about things an editor would want me to check up on or discuss moving something elsewhere, but I prefer the same old method I've participated in before. The "virtual editing sessions" are nice, but painstakingly slow. The editor has to stop editing to check in with me on things, instead of making notes in that part of the manuscript then proceeding with the edits. Also, it's dependent on how much time I can invest in participating. With two young children, my time to participate in these sessions is scarce. I grab that time when the kids are in school (though, as it is, the youngest only goes for a half-day two times a week), but even then, that's just not enough time to get the whole manuscript edited. The editor has more time than I do, and requiring me to be "present" for the edits of the manuscript just holds things up.

I'm still grateful for this experience, and it has definitely given me a lot to think about. I just prefer the other method of going through the edits of a manuscript because it just gets done faster.

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