I know how precious your time is, and it’s very meaningful to me that you reviewed Rooted and Winged!
These are some tags I made for the first “water” prompt at The Ugly Art Club. Yup, still doing art journalling. I am starting to find little things about my “style.” It’s been slow coming, but–for instance–the half woman (skirt half) in the top library card. I like using women’s skirts. Go figure.
I’ve been very busy caring for the kitties, especially Felix who requires a lot of meds and supplements and vet visits. But I did manage to write my reviews for the other two nonfiction picks. Click on the book covers to order from Amazon.
Ellie Presner’s memoir Surviving Hollywood North: Crew Confessions from an Insider was a fun fly-on-the-wall read, especially if you recognize some old film/TV that was filmed in Montreal. That is where Hollywood North existed: in Ellie’s hometown of Montreal. Ellie worked as a script coordinator for a decade during the heyday of Montreal’s film industry. Ellie had to be extremely organized, competent, and a grammar expert for this job. I had to laugh when she would assert her opinion over a word choice or idea with an arrogant screenwriter or bigwig. This high stress, fast-paced job seems to have been something Ellie could handle with aplomb, and the necessary adrenaline shines through in the voice of the book. Ellie’s jobs were all temporary because that is how it works in the field. Each job was created by the timeline of the film or of the season. Ellie tells the story of several different jobs, doling out behind the scenes gossip—mainly what she herself experienced or witnessed. Documents from Ellie’s work sprinkle the book, allowing the reader a first-hand look at the work. She also gives examples from her humorous work memos, designed to relieve stress for the staff. My favorite section of the book is her work for actor Patrick MacGoohan who was writing a screenplay for a movie based on his cult classic TV show, The Prisoner. I felt sad with Ellie at the end when she witnessed the last days of “Hollywood North.” You can find Ellie at her blog Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees
Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary, by Pamela S. Wight (of roughwighting blog) is a little gem of inspirational very short (flash) stories that explore the divine in everyday life. They remind me a lil bit of the “domestic farce” literature of Jean Kerr, Shirley Jackson, and Erma Bombeck, but more mystical than practical. I suspect because of the piece entitled “How Was Your vacation, Erma?” that Bombeck is a muse for Pam. But Pam’s approach to the material of the day-to-day life of a mom, wife, and grandmother is to look for what lies beyond, rather than in rigorously mining the humorous. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of humor in the book, but I am left more with a sense of awe for the majesty of life. For instance, in “Oxen Mystic,” Pam suffers a nighttime seizure in the bathroom when she’s home alone. Alone, that is, except for her dog Henry. He takes charge of her medical care, licking her and then covering her with his warm body, until she can crawl into bed three hours later. After Henry passes away, Pam still can feel his presence, even hear his “voice” in her ear. The storyteller of Flashes of Life is insightful, gentle, and open to each experience. While the book can be easily read in a couple of sittings and the essays are short, the book occupies a large presence in the heart and mind of the reader long after the last page. You can find Pam at her blog roughwighting.net
I’ve been doing some more reading again lately. Here are two poetry books that I swooned over.
In Caroline Goodwin’s new poetry collection, the elegiac The Paper Tree, language seeks to locate and identify. This is where and what, the poems seem to say. The mood can be mournful, commemorative, meditative.
Images from nature are seeds blown into the wind by the poet in an act of claiming. The urgent need of the poems, intense as it is, ebbs for a moment when hope soars for “a new kingdom . . . where the need to name the shape / does not even exist.” For now, the kingdom itself does not exist, but the glimpse of it has been noted.
Ultimately, the outward gestures of naming and sowing images lead to a necessary inwardness: “hold out your hands / open your heart / here’s where the world slides in.” The Paper Tree will present you the world if you open yourself to its wonders.
Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, Susan Swartwout’s latest poetry collection, finds the beauty and pathos in the oddities of life. Family history, carnival performance, time spent in Honduras—the subjects are varied, which further emphasizes that our lens can be adjusted to spot the strange and wonderful—or the pitiful—anywhere we look. The language is gutsy, the images sometimes grotesque and sometimes mystical. I found this collection impossible to put down, and poems like “Five Deceits of the Hand” where “we” are betrayed into aging and death thrilled me with jealousy.
Friends vanish like misplaced directions
into skies you used to claim. Age begins
sucking your bones until you lean shriveled
into the mouth of harvest.
In case you’re worried that the book ends on a dark or depressing note, the last word is salvation. I guess you’ll have to read the book to see if that means things work out ok or not.
Maybe I finished my diamond poem (the one I mentioned in Typical Tuesday). Letting it rest right now.
I used #amwriting as a tag this week because I started looking through my memoir manuscript with an idea to restructuring it AGAIN. This is so insane. But look at it this way, what happens over many decades has to be structured in a way that is easy for the reader to follow and stay engaged. Most memoirs take place over a much briefer period of time (is briefer a word?), but the story I want to tell begins at least when I was 11, but truly long before I was born, and doesn’t end until this past decade. PULLING MY HAIR OUT.
Which reminds me that I wanted to share that Perry is in absolute love with his hairbrush. Yup. He hugs it.
Are you a reader? I suspect if you’re a blog reader then you do consider yourself to be a reader.
And if you’re a reader, are you on Goodreads? If you are, great. If you haven’t done so already, FRIEND me here:
Then read the list below and tell me what else I missed that Goodreads offers to readers.
If you’re not yet on Goodreads, let me tell you what I like about it. It can be a very social media. You can choose to join lots of groups and chat about all kinds of books and book issues. If you don’t find the group you want, you can create and moderate one.
But if you don’t want to be that social, you can choose your comfort level—anywhere from social butterfly to recluse.
What else can you do on Goodreads
When you hear about a book you want to read in the future, you can add it to your to-read list.
Your own personal reading lists will keep you organized. At any time, you can look up what you have already read and see which books you are “currently reading,” but have forgotten about (I’ve misplaced the book or forgotten I was in the middle of one on Kindle—don’t ask). Organization can be by genre.
Book reviews by other Goodreads readers will give you an idea if you want to read a book or not.
Your own book reviews will remind you later of what you liked or didn’t like—and allow you to interact with others about any book you choose. They will also reward a writer whose book you really appreciated. If you already leave book reviews on Amazon, you can post the exact same review both places.
Friends will send you book recommendations.
Take a reading challenge.
Follow your favorite blogs through Goodreads.
When you’re busy, you can just ignore Goodreads; it won’t mind.
Book giveaways are super easy to enter, and you have a good chance of winning. How do I know? I have won!
You can follow or friend writers and correspond with them through public questions or personal messages.
Occasionally there are book-related gigs available.
Need a quote? Find them here.
Quizzes, author pages, and creative writing opportunities are on Goodreads.
Those of you already on the site, what do you like best about Goodreads?
Kin Types had an original release date of June 23, 2017, but I got an email from the publisher. They are running five weeks behind. So don’t look for your copy until the end of July or first week of August! I’m so sorry for the delay. !@#$%^&*()
In the better news category, Doll God was reviewed by an academic critic in a print journal Pleiades Book Review 14:2.
Christine Butterworth-McDermott: “Dolls, Freaks, Art: American Poets Creating a New Mythology.”
Butterworth-McDermott’s article is a feminist reading of Doll God. I love how she connected with the doll and fairy tale poems in the book. She also reviews two other books, by Susan Swartwout and Denise Alvarez, in the same piece. At the end, she says, “Readers should read and reread the works of Castle, Swartwout, and Alvarez, finding new ways of looking at the world each time.”
Since I haven’t been writing lately I started Diane Lockward’s poetry craft book, The Crafty Poet II. I am writing a few very rough drafts based on exercises in the book. It’s a good way to get started again.
Are you planning to publish a book soon or in the distant future? (If you’re looking for a Perry update, you’ll find it at the end ;)). Also, pre-orders for Kin Types must be in by Thursday. Pre-order HERE.
Finishing Line Press has been very good about providing sample materials for promotional purposes. Because of their help, I felt that I had the tools to put together a media kit, as they suggested.
I thought I would share a list of the component parts that go into a media kit.
The first page is a cover image of Kin Types with “Press Contact” information. This info consists of:
You might want to include a telephone number, but it is also suggested that the media kit be available through your website. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my phone number that available.
Look at what I’ve listed. Address. Do you want your address on there? I found the same question came up when I was listed with Poets & Writers. But we have a post office box that we use for business, so I use that for writing business. If you don’t have a post office box, you might want to consider getting one now.
You probably already have more than one email address, but if you don’t, you might want one that is expressly for writing or at least doesn’t have too much spam going into it.
Do you have a website-website or is it your blog? Either is fine–just make sure that the address you use is going to remain the same for the next couple of years at least.
After the front page of the media kit, you will have a TABLE OF CONTENTS, and the table of contents will include these items
Your biography should be a few short paragraphs long and just cover the main points, especially as relates to your writing and perhaps your specialization in something related to your topic of writing. On my biography page I first put my new headshot taken by Renee Rivers and then my three paragraph bio. Sometimes people use funny bios that show the writer’s sense of humor, but not much else. I think these are meant to show that the writer doesn’t have a big head. Personally, I don’t much like those. That sort of thing is for a Twitter description, not a bio that is meant to encapsulate your experience as a writer.
The bio takes time to craft. If you haven’t written one for yourself yet, there is no time like the present. Write it in 3rd person, not first. You can keep revising it as you get publications or something major changes in your life, but it helps to have one ready-to-go. And you need it to submit to magazines and journals, agents, etc. So I think writing your bio is your first assignment ;). The best way to begin is to look at other writers’ bios as models.
Next up is the Curriculum Vitae–or CV as it’s usually called. Are you Googling it yet? hahahaha Kind of like chapbook or feral cat, really. Most of the world uses the word RESUME. But in academics and the literary world, CV is what it’s called.
The format for a CV is slightly different than a resume, and the biggest difference IMO is that a resume is supposed to be pretty short so you don’t wear out somebody who is considering hiring you. But in a CV long is where it’s at. Because long shows that you’ve done a lot of stuff. And for writers that means publishing a lot. On a CV, you list alllllll your publications, except for maybe that fairy tale you wrote when you were seven. Since most writers making a media kit for the first time won’t have a long list of publications, what are they to do? I just wouldn’t put in the thing. Who cares? The media kit is what the writer chooses to make it, after all. If your CV isn’t your strength, don’t use it.
!But I have a question for genre writers: do you use a CV for agents or for media kits?
Next is the Press Release. But I haven’t done that yet, so I have no advice!
Then there are reviews. I only have one advance review, written by Carla McGill. Thank you, Carla! After Kin Types is published I hope to get more reviews and can then add some to the media kit.
I have two blurbs for Kin Types, from Justin Hamm and Carol Bachofner. I’ve included them both on the same page. Doll God has three blurbs, but that seemed fitting because it was a full-length book.
Until two weeks ago, I didn’t have an interview for the media kit, but then Marie from 1WriteWay interviewed me, so now I do. Thank you, Marie!
Now you see the things you have to start to think about ahead of time: lining up reviews, interviews, writing a biography, and so on. And I originally thought all I had to do was write and tweet about it!
If you are experienced at creating a media kit, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Perry update: he loves tuna juice, which is the water from the can of tuna. It’s just a once in a blue moon treat as I don’t believe in giving cats too much fish. Fish is a secret ingredient in far too many cat foods, and fish can cause serious health problems if it’s too big a part of the diet.
Also, I am starting to train him with little pieces of turkey. When he actually takes it out of my hand I will open his cage door so he can go in and out in the room. At least that is my plan at this point.
Perry lets me come fairly near to him. He seems more and more calm and less frightened, but I don’t feel he is ready for me to try to touch him.
Here he is on the upper level of his 3 story cage house
From the gardener: peppers are ripening so he figured out a way to dry them outside. He didn’t want to dry them inside because they could makes the cats sick.
There are 3 or so more days left to pre-order Kin Types at this link.
In March I have a flash nonfiction piece coming out in a journal called Toasted Cheese. I will post a link when it’s published. The piece is called “And So It Goes,” and it’s the story of my great-great-grandparents who immigrated from Goes and Kloetinge (Netherlands) to Michigan. It’s meant to be part of the family history chapbook I plan to put together.
If you’re a writer or want to write, I think you might want to check out and follow the Toasted Cheese website. They are very interactive and provide DAILY writing prompts and creative articles about writing and reading. Here’s a sample article from this past December. The subject is book recommendations.
Recommend on social media at least one thing you’ve read this year. If you don’t use social media, recommend in person. Independent authors are particularly grateful for recommendations.
Create some recommendation business cards and leave them with your favorite works in the bookstore. You can print them at home. They could be as simple as the word “recommended” with a thumbs-up or a shelf card that lists why you recommend the book. Don’t put stickers on or in the books.
Ask for recommendations at a used book store and/or independent bookstore. If you’re lucky, your local chain bookstore will have fellow book lovers who are well-versed enough to recommend as well.
Recommend a book to a friend on Goodreads.
While you’re there, write a recommendation of a book. If you’re stuck for one, think of a book you discovered on your own and write the review as though you’re speaking to your younger self.
What do you think of those recommendations? Do you do any of them? Or do you finish a book and move onto the next and squirrel away your reaction in your own mind?
Way back I said I would share some stuff I learned about publishing a book. A lot has gone on in my life in the past couple of months, so I got a little behind in my spring plans. Nevertheless, I will share the little I’ve learned about the subject of Amazon reviews and rankings with you. I was so ignorant that I didn’t realize how important reviews are to book sales.
Actually, this post is more about what I don’t know about Amazon.
But I used to know even less. To those of you I had to be asked to write an Amazon review for, I’m sorry you even had to ask. If I read your book, and particularly if I reviewed it on here, I should have known to go write a review on Amazon. All it really takes is one or two sentences and a star rating. Mea culpa. Or maybe it’s my bad today.
I’ve heard–and so far this is merely rumor because how Amazon really operates is a mystery even to those who purport to have figured out the formula–that one has to have 25 reviews on Amazon for one’s book to attract any attention from Amazon and perhaps be moved up where a stranger might type in, say, “turtles as pets,” and see the link for your book that rhapsodizes on turtles as pets.
I’ve also heard that it’s important for people to click that “why, YES, this review was extremely helpful to me” (or whatever it’s called) button on Amazon after each positive review.
I have seen many books without any reviews. How can that be? After a writer puts all that effort into writing a book, not one person can write a review of it? I’m having a hard time getting my mind around this phenomenon.
A writer is also supposed to create an Author Page at Author Central on Amazon. Do you know how many writers don’t bother to do this? I guess the idea behind this feature is that someone can use the information on that page to help decide if they want to purchase your book. It’s also helpful for when you publish your second book–and I would imagine that a book in a different genre might make it even more important. As readers, we want to know what makes a writer the right person to write that book.
Here is my Author Page. What else, if anything, should I share on this page?
When Doll God first came out it was on the list of Hot New Releases in Poetry for a few weeks. It was kind of exciting, but what did it really mean? I wonder if I sold even one book because of that list. And how would I know? Here’s the rub about Amazon: if you’re not self-published you’re not necessarily privy to much behind-the-scenes information. What I get is a graph that gives me an idea of the up and down of sales, with the ranking among 8,000,000 books. I’ve checked it out exactly three times. I just looked again and mine right now is 246,886 365,098 (changes fast). But then you know that because this is information that is available to all Amazon readers. You can see it on the page for Doll God under product details. By the way, that number doesn’t seem that terrible to me, especially for a poetry book (although I’d love it to be lower), but if my book was a novel or memoir I would like a much lower number/higher ranking. And besides, it’s a number that will continue to change. One day, when I am no longer doing anything to promote the book it could wind up at 7,999,999.
I would like to hear from people who are self-published. What does your information about sales, etc. look like? How detailed is it? Do you know what motivates a sale?
Do you have any other information about Amazon that you can share?