After a long hiatus, I submitted a couple of short stories to literary magazines today.
I’ve been working on the new website, mulling over what stories I wanted to include. The website will have a “Photo Bio” featuring a sentence about my life that reflects a dominant themes in my work and a representative photo. Click on the photo and you can read (or listen) to work that engages the theme.
For example, under the “I grew up to be a lawyer and show clothes on the runway,” you will be able to click on a glamor shot and read The Dress, which appeared in Skirt! Magazine, or listen to “Show the Clothes.” where two models get into fisticuffs.
Given my recent proclivities, much of the fiction will be in audio form, but I also want to include PDFs folks can read. I knew I’d use “Held at Gunpoint,” the story that received a Special Mention from Pushcart Prize, Best of the Small Presses. But what else?
In search of an answer, I wandered through old stories lurking inside folders entitled “Odd Devices” (where the structure doesn’t follow a standard “and then this happened” telling); “Distance Stories” (where the narrator is not as close a point of view as I normally use), and one folder I can’t tell you the name of without blushing.
Inside the “Women” folder, I found two old stories I liked so well I don’t want to “self-publish” them by placing them on the website. Instead, I slipped them into envelopes (yes, no email submissions) and sent other copies to Submittable and other online submission processes.
One story is a post-Katrina story set in Jackson, Mississippi. I’m hoping the topical nature of it, given the upcoming 10th anniversary of the storm, might help with its acceptance. The other is a story about a young woman who had to leave her children and live on the street. Because I wrote this BEFORE I began facilitating a writing group of men and women who live on the street, I shamelessly began my submission letter: “For seven years, I’ve facilitated a writing group of men and women who know homelessness.” I measured the story against that experience to see if it rang true (it obviously did), but I had no fear of exploiting the experience since I wrote it prior thereto.
We shall see if anyone wants them, but here’s the primary thing: they are good stories. Right now, when I’m going through so much rejection trying to get an agent for the novel, it was really nice to run across these stories and realize with the cold eye of not having seen the work in a long, long time—you CAN write.
As I always say, you never know why you’re going from A to B but, most of the time, it’s not the reason you think. I thought I was getting my new website ready for launch, but what I really was doing was laying a balm on my soul.
For those of y’all following my novel(s) saga, I thought you might like an update. Also, I need your support—just getting it out here helps me feel I’m not all alone on this journey!
TRAIN TRIP: LUCINDA MAE’S QUEST FOR LOVE, HONOR AND THE CHICKENS, is being read and considered by four agents. Many queries are still outstanding, and I have about 25 more to submit.
MODEL FOR DECEPTION has been reviewed by my paid editor and, mercifully, she sent a mild revision list. She really liked the story, loved the character, and thought it had great “salability” as a women’s mystery. She now has my draft query letter, and I hope to receive her comments shortly. When I do, I’ll begin sending out that query as well.
I chose to revise IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI next, and I’m now done with the final (God, that is such an iffy word) read. I will send this novel on to the editor as well. Who knows what she will think of it:
a young documentarian returns to the South to film a historic civil rights reparations lawsuit, but when the case begins to fall apart, the mixed-race young man must examine his own place in the world.
The manuscript up next will either be THE BONE TRENCH or JAZZY. THE BONE TRENCH should be a quick revision (famous last words) because I have revised it SO much already. On the other hand, I’m eager to get on to the Hurricane Katrina novel, JAZZY. While JAZZY is “finished,” that’s a mere technicality. I don’t even consider it a first draft—which smart authors say doesn’t exist until at least one outside reader has read it. Returning to the world of this young girl who lost her daddy and awaits the birth of a sibling as Hurricane Katrina approaches would be pure joy, a treat after the many months of revision.
In the meantime, the short story collection CAIN’T DO NOTHING WITH LOVE won an award in an independent publishers’ contest, the 2014 CIPA EVYY Awards in Audio Book! I’m so pleased for the success of this experiment I pretty much made up myself—Hey, why don’t I record a collection of stories, pair the stories with charities, and make the collection available almost exclusively for free online. The podiobooks.com listening site has had over 7000 (!) downloads with some wonderful comments. When you add listeners on YouTube, iTunes and the website, you get over 8000 downloads. I think that’s great for (1) short stories (2) that are literary and (3) very Southern. From this, I’ve learned (among many other things) what I want in a website; that many folks for whom English is not the first language can understand my Southern accent; people like my reading voice. It really has been an informative process.
About the website thing, I’m about to consolidate my web presence. Not to get too philosophical, but I feel the time has come to integrate the various bits of me that now exist on the web. From making crosses to this umbrella blog to the story collection site to my old ellen morris prewitt website—they need to be pieces of an integrated whole. My webmaster tells me I can transfer all of y’all to the new site, and no one will be lost. I certainly hope that’s true.
Thanks again for following my journey. I much appreciate it.
Many years ago, I read excerpts from Write Your Heart Out on the local NPR affiliate. In response, the book’s author, my friend and mentor Rebecca McClanahan, said, “Thank you for sharing my words.” Ever since, I’ve had a very specific goal with my writing: getting my words shared.
Followers of this blog know that, right now, I’m in Phase 2 of an audio experiment. My short story collection, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, was released on podibooks.com on December 28, 2013 (last year, can you believe it’s no longer 20103?). When the collection was released, podiobooks.com—which has over 4000 followers—tweeted it out.
They also included notification of the new release on their podiobooks blog .
In the next seven days, almost 1300 downloads were recorded.
Honestly, I have no idea how this compares with other new releases. I don’t know if all the recorded downloads are folks actually listening. What I do know is that the chance of my words being heard has increased exponentially. Given my long-term goal, I consider that a success. Thank you, podiobooks.com
If you’ve listened to the stories, would you please to go to iTunes and rate/comment on the podcast? It would be very helpful.
If you’ve found us here through Podiobooks, welcome!
The release on Podiobooks is the latest step in a process that began last December. You can read the background on how I came to record my short story collection, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, by scrolling over the ABOUT tab above and clicking AUTHOR Q&A. You can read more about the recording/story selection process at IN HER OWN WORDS under the same tab.
Sprinkled here and there on this blog are my plans for the future. My current writing projects, my woes wrestling with editing, and my exploration of life in general are at my EllenMorrisPrewitt blog. Here’s a photo of the creative synthesizer at work:
If you’re a writer on audio, let me know—I’m really interested in this process. If you’re a listener and you’d like to share your comments, I’d welcome that too. It’s a long road, this writing one, and I’m glad to have any companions I can get.
How do you choose to get your work out there? This question—ebook or print?—is raging on LinkedIn. Sprinkled in but treated as an annoying buzzing mosquito of a distraction—quit bringing this up!— are a handful of posts about audio.
I am the buzzing mosquito.
Here, at Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, we are living in an audio world.
“Written and read by the author.”
If you want to know why I chose this route, click on “Q&A with the Author” above.
If you want confirmation this was a good decision, check out my page on podiobooks.com. People are listening to the stories. Hearing my words. Laughing, we hope.
Here’s to getting your work out there. Cheers to a new way of “reading” in the New Year!
I have just finished the book, “The 5 Love Languages,” and discovered that my happiness with Tom has nothing to do with any intelligence or effort on our part.
According to this book, people have different love languages-i.e. how we perceive we are being loved. In addition, we instinctively convey love as we perceive it. Thus, you can be conveying love all day long but if you’re using a language the other person doesn’t perceive as love, they’re feeling morose, unloved. Conversely, if your instinctive expression of love is the love language your loved-one understands, you have inadvertently stumbled upon the perfect way to let the person know he or she is loved.
Tom and I share our top two love languages. Our least favorite love language is the same as well. So, for fourteen years, we’ve been telling each other non-stop and effectively that the other is loved.
Another example of it being better to be lucky than smart. Or, to look at it another way, don’t go getting the big head over what has been given to you for free.
I don’t know where you are—based on my blog stats, there’s a good chance you might be in Brazil or New Zealand or Italy or India or Britain—but whatever part of the world you’re in, it might be raining.
That steady downpour that makes you hunt a sofa, a blanket, a warm cup of coffee or tea.
You need a nap, really, a chance to drop off to sleep, snuggled on the sofa, stealing a moment of doing for yourself.
But what to do until sleep arrives?
The TV has become boring, and you’re too lazy right now to read.
Here’s the ticket: listen to this story. Or this one. Or if you are one of those folks who takes longer to drift off, give this one a try.
Seven minutes, eight, you’ll be done.
Turning over, yanking the covers beneath your chin, you’ll sigh in contentment. Sleep will descend, and your dreams will make you laugh out loud.
Sometimes I get so frustrated by the pace of my writing career, I Google the titles of my novels to see if something is going on with them that I don’t know about. This is an insane activity, as the novels haven’t been published. The only place they exist—other than a mention or two in contests I’ve placed in over the years—are in my computer. Yet, my lack of control over the excruciatingly slow pace—snail doesn’t begin to describe it; a snail could have traveled to Mexico, attended Carlos Fuentes funeral, and traveled leisurely back to Memphis via Omaha—has driven me to such wacko behavior.
Novels, you say. Novel. I thought she was a short story writer? Well, you see that’s the problem. Before this venture, I was “the woman who wrote that book about making crosses.” I loved my experience of the cross book, and then it was time to move on. I next chose, in effect, to self-publish as a collection these short stories that individually appeared in literary journals, my desire being to introduce folks to my fiction. Do you feel introduced? Are you ready for the next thing?
Maybe my problem is an above-average need for attention and acclaim, fanfare and fawning. But here’s the honest truth: I’m ready for the next thing before most people are ready for me to be the next thing. I’m already skipping down the sidewalk, and they haven’t processed my last chalk drawing. I can’t help it. I’m ready to bop. I want the short stories to do their work and, well-loved, subside into the background.
Lord, did you see what that snail did with Burnt Water? That’s what happens when a snail gets too much tequila.
Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love (or craziness)
This is the last week of the rollout. Look back: the first story launched on June 26 (of this year, as my friend from writing group would clarify.) We sustained a hiatus when my daddy died, then resumed with vigor. When the current week is done, we will enter PHASE II. The collection will be made available in full on other host sites. The work will enter the wider world. So let’s enjoy this last moment of intimacy. When it’s just you and me and the stories, whispering in your ear: “Listen, I want to tell you a story.”
I can feel it – I’m eating up track, finally in the groove for the story, and the week is over. Finished. Done. Time to move on.
A week is a short thing.
Stay tuned for a new story.
It involves Love.
And a man in a squirrel costume.
Everyone’s talking about e-book or print, self-publishing or traditional. I want to talk about something different. Following the advice of my favorite fortune cookie ever—try a different way or new approach—today, I’m beginning a conversation about a different approach: audio. That is, recording your work and making it available to listeners on-line.
I do not speak from a point of authority; I speak from experience. I am a long-time writer, winner of numerous contests, holder of a Special Mention from Pushcart Prize for a short story, contributor to Sue Silverman’s memoir-writing instructional book Fearless Confessions, author of a traditionally published book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God. And I’ve just recorded a short story collection, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, which is now available to the public.
The conversation will include questions to ask in deciding if recording is right for you, tips on getting started, truths I learned along the way, my experience with the listening public, etc. But today we are going to take a look at the fears that I encountered when I first clicked on the microphone and began to read my words aloud.
Thanks for listening, join in the discussion, share this blog with anyone who likes to try something new—glad to have you along.
Recording Fears, or Why Your Heart Might Skip a Beat
Your voice will sound stupid
Your voice will sound old
Your voice will sound JUST LIKE YOU
You will use a phrase that unbeknownst to you is slang for a pornographic sex act
You will mispronounce a word and not know it and your ignorance will be recorded for all the world to hear
You will no longer be able to pretend this thing isn’t important to you
Those who run the charities you’ve paired with the stories will be offended—now, we don’t want our name associated with that
A friend will ask to listen to the story while you’re sitting there, mortifying you to death
A really good writer will listen to the story and use it as the foundation of a blog entry on why we shouldn’t let amateurs have microphones
People will feel like they know you
You will have spent all this money for NOTHING
Someone will complain about your using Robb Pate’s music without compensating him even though he’s dead
Those who know you from your cross book will be shocked—I thought she was a religious person . . .
You will offend Black folk or gay folk or poor folk or Indian folk—what the hell were you thinking?!?
Your mother will hear you say a very bad word, out loud
People will give your upstanding husband the stink-eye just because his wife is strange
No one will donate to the charities
You are trying to market an approach (online, iTunes, YouTube, blog) to an audience too old (i.e. your age) to be interested, and the audience who gets the approach are too young to care about your work
Listeners won’t think the stories are funny, they won’t get it, they will find it just plain offensive
They won’t think anything at all because no one is listening, your voice echoing into nothingness
Stay Tuned for Part II: How to Overcome Your Fears and Forge Ahead
I am a child of the book. No more than five books from the children’s section of the library—what’s to be done? Not enough money to buy more than one book from the Book Mobile, thank God for Little Bear gifts from loving aunts. Summers spent in air-conditioned rooms lazing on beds, reading one Faulkner after another Welty after another, all in diamond-patterned or green-backed or crackly plastic covers. I grew up to discover paperbacks— The Bluest Eye and the Right Stuff: all right!—and when I got money practicing law, hardbacks.
So why record?
I loved the brown-edged pages, the stiff spines, the thick square paperbacks. I picked which Austin I wanted by which cover I liked. I opened the books and sniffed. I wanted to own that which I loved and I made shelves to hold them in my house.
So why record?
Why turn traitor?
Why abandon the book?
What’s fun is fun and what’s done is done. The stories are fun; the recording is done. The stories had been in print—literary journals, I know, right?—so take a Mulligan. Try something new, you’ve got nothing to lose.
But, seriously. I want the work OUT THERE. Even if that means no book.
Would I be sad if the world continues to change and by the time I finally get a novel ready to launch, the written book is gone, poof! Hell, yes.
Until then, you can go on-line. Hear me read, hear me roar.
And who knows—if the stories get popular enough, maybe I’ll put out the collection in a book.
“Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.” Susan Sontag, courtesy of A-Word-A-Day
“Revision must honor the creative impulse that led to the words that strived—neck stretched—to achieve something the intellect—sitting in the bleachers, watching the race—can only glimpse.” Ellen Morris Prewitt
“I started with Lucky Critters and your reading reminded me for all the world of the cadence of Larry Brown reading from his works years ago, one of his first, at a Jackson literary festival. It was when Larry was getting to be noticed.”
Lynn Watkins, journalist, lawyer, Mississippi reader
On June 27th, in connection with the Download Party at The Booksellers (what has been tagged a “Bookless Booksigning”), four stories from the collection will launch. The stories will be available on this site, iTunes,YouTube, and perhaps elsewhere. They also will be available for purchase on CD at the Download Party if you’d rather access them that way.
After the launch, a new story will be rolled out each week throughout the summer. If you’d like to receive a new story when it comes out, FOLLOW this blog; you’ll get notice of each new story.
As the stories are released, they will be collected on the Stories Page, so you can go back and listen to any you want.
By the end of the summer, all the stories will be launched and available for listening.
If you’re just not a listening person, you can read the stories on the PDF on the About Page.
Launch date: Thursday June 27th
Time: 6:00 pm
Location: The Booksellers at Laurelwood
What it is: collection of award-winning short stories written and read by the author (me) and made available on CD
Launch date: earlier than June 27th
Time: anytime I choose
Location: on the ethernet
What it is: a collection of award-winning short stories written and read by the author (me) made available on iTunes, YouTube, my blog, email links, podcaster sites, my website – wherever sound is found.