If You’ve Ever Dreamed of Becoming a Best-Selling Author-A Caution

then you may want to read Kevin Kaiser‘s article over at Writer’s Digest: The Dark Side of Being a Bestseller. Kevin says:

The thing is, there is a dark side to being a bestseller. There are secrets they don’t share publicly.

 

I know because I’ve worked inside the Publishing Machine for nearly a decade, advising multi-million dollar bestsellers and publishers on everything from creative development to grassroots marketing. I’ve been equal parts strategist, editor, and counselor.

 

Bestsellers carry secrets, and if they were to share a few it might be these.

 

Read the rest of the post; well worth it.

Kevin has a lot of good information in his weekly newsletters, and I look forward to reading them every week.

Find Kevin on Twitter

Kevin’s blog

Check out Kevin’s webpage and especially his podcasts.

Drama, or Melodrama? The Fine Line of Emotion

Drama, or Melodrama? The Fine Line of Emotion

by Rhonda Browning White

 

Successful stories are emotional stories: we connect with that which moves us. A writer’s work is at its best when the reader feels emotion alongside a character. We must take care not to cross that very fine line and overdramatize a character’s feelings; otherwise, a reader will be about as patient with the emotional scene as with a toddler’s temper tantrum.

An excellent example of understated yet powerful emotion is present in Leslie Pietrzyk’s “The Circle”, a Pushcart-Prize-nominated short story appearing in the Winter 2013 issue of The Gettysburg Review. “The Circle” relates the stories of two characters—one a young female narrator grieving her husband’s recent death, the other a grief counselor named Ruth who is in denial of the cancer that’s taken root in her breast—deftly juxtaposed and intertwined. Death and cancer: two painfully grim subjects that if not handled correctly, especially when examined in one short story, risk leaving a reader morose and depressed, potentially swearing off the author’s work forever. The last thing needed in a story of this gravity is melodrama, but there is equal danger in making light of such serious subjects through use of glib dialogue, inappropriate humor, or unrealistic character actions.

Fortunately, Pietrzyk’s “The Circle” conveys honest emotion through the body language, dialogue, and the internal thoughts of both of her point of view characters, without veering across the line into melodrama. One case in point is the recent widow’s bleak expression of hopelessness when describing the room in which her support group is held:

“Drab, large, as shapeless as something with four walls could be, so that while the room was rectangular, the boundaries felt ill-defined. Alternating between stuffy and chilly. Windows high up on the walls, offering squeaks of light but no view. Fluorescent lighting with a slight buzz. An unplugged coffee maker on a long table covered with a plastic, red-checked tablecloth with dark brown burn circles where someone had set down something hot. It was a room where sad people collected, people with vast problems. She stared at a wall calendar with a picture of a European castle, wondering why something seemed off, and finally realized she was looking at last month’s dates.”

Pietrzyk doesn’t tell us her character feels hopeless, nor do we see the young woman moping, shoulders sagging, as she drags herself into the room. Why? Because that would be melodramatic. Instead, as we see the room through the character’s eyes, we feel her heavyheartedness.

We see a concurrence of bleakness—this time expressed through anger—in grief counselor Ruth, when she refuses to call her doctor, refuses to schedule a breast biopsy, and lies to her friends about doing both. We feel her resentment when she takes control of what she worries may be the short amount of time she has left.

“People ramble through grief at their own pace—tiptoes to raging bulls—and Ruth does not judge. It’s not a race.

“No, what Ruth finds disturbing is the steady gnaw of anger as she listened to the widows speak that first night. She’s been tired lately, maybe, or about to get her period. Maybe that ill-advised Mexican meal. But today, home after work, after not calling the doctor, she realizes why: those bitches are alive, and she is dying.”

Again, the expression of emotion is restrained, yet ruthless, and in a story that deals with difficult topics such as death and cancer, this is crucial. There can be no histrionics, no clichés, nor any falsely callous song and dance. This careful balance when walking the fine line of emotional expression in writing is what allows readers to engage and immerse in the story and experience truthful emotions alongside and through our characters.

 Gettysburg Review Winter 2013

 

 

 

Forget the card. Give a poem.

by Gabrielle Freeman

It’s that time of year again. Three full aisles of inflated red mylar, plastic wrapped heart-shaped boxes, and stuffies everywhere from teeny-tiny to I-could-use-it-for-a-bed. An entire section of folded cardstock replete with card-sized words about love. Pffffttt I say.

All of the writing I’ve sampled in the following poem works. All. Of. It. Ditch the card. Send your lover a poem.

Valentine’s Anaphora

I want to say something about love.
I want to say something about
standing at the edge of the sea, about
sleeping next to “her sepulchre there by the sea” (Poe).

I want to say I’ve felt the sand against my cheek.
I’ve felt the spray, wet and cold, against my cheek.

I want to say “In the madness and soil
of that sad earthly scene / only then I am human
/ only then I am clean” (Hozier-Byrne).

I want to say I’ve felt the dirt clenched
in my palms. I’ve felt the earth grit and stick
against my splayed palms.

I want to say “You know what / you know with your hands,
wish the night blacker since / blackest
is forever” and “You cannot now comfort me.
/ So disown me. The soil is free.
Within it lives all that matters.
/ One day, I’ll see you down there” (Marvin).

I want to say the sand and the soil, the dirt and the earth, scream
want and desire and, oh god, love.

I want to say “grab my fingers gently,
/ slam them in a doorway, put my face
into the ground” (White).

I want to say something sweet and subtle about love
like that.

Hozier-Byrne, Andrew. “Take Me To Church.” Hozier. Rubyworks, 2014. CD.
Marvin, Cate. “Plastic Cookie.” poets.org. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “Annabel Lee.” Poetry Foundation. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
White, Jack. “Love Interruption.” Blunderbuss. Third Man Records, 2012. CD.

Thinking of an MFA? Think Converse

But think quick–the deadline for applying is Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015.

Converse MFA in Creative Writing

Faculty

How to Apply

Why I Love The Converse Low-Residency MFA Program-blog post at Work-In-Progress, a blog by faculty mentor Leslie Pietrzyk.

Running the Novel Marathon

by Kim Triedman My gym misses me. I haven’t exactly been pulling my weight lately. Or blasting my abs or busting my butt, either. In fact I can honestly say that from the moment I started writing my second novel this past September, I have gone through the gym …

via Running the Novel Marathon.