Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Interview with Gary Gauthier

I had the pleasure of "meeting" Gary Gauthier online when I participated in Rachael Harris's Platform Building Campaign last fall. (She's doing a new one in February. You can go here to learn more about it, as well as enjoying her posts about writing.)

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed one of Gary's e-books, 50 Classic Love Poems in Rhyming Verse (you can read the review here if you missed it.) Many of you who have read my blog over time know how much I love art and poetry. I was particularly interested in how Gary matched beautiful art work to poetry and prose excerpts on his two blogs, Literary Snippets and Illustrated Basho Haikus. After reviewing 50 Classic Love Poems in Rhyming Verse and seeing more of his e-books at Amazon, I knew I wanted to interview him and get his take on what is happening in the publishing world today. 

I am late on getting this posted, but for those of you reading this post today (Thursday, January 26th), it's not too late to get a free copy The Portable Bouguereau 

Q: You have edited three beautifully illustrated, published e-books, The Art of Reading, Illustrated Basho Haiku Poems, and 50 Classic Love Poems in Rhyming Verse. How did you happen to start  editing books?

A: First, let me thank you, Elizabeth for conducting this interview. I really appreciate the opportunity.

I wish I had a more exciting answer for your first question. It all started as an experiment. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of electronic publishing—what better way than to actually try to do it from scratch with your bare hands? 
Let me clarify what I mean by electronic publishing. I mean taking a bunch of files and compiling them into the organized structure of a properly formatted ebook. I didn’t have a novel or short story ready for publication, so I decided to start with an anthology. 
It took me a couple of weeks to fully understand what was involved. I gained some excellent insights as to what the available software could and could not do. It was a tremendous help that I had some background in coding with html and css.
Q: You’ve authored and published two more beautifully illustrated e-books, The Portable Bouguereau and Van Gogh for a Starry Night. In the first book, you do a thorough analysis of Bouguereau’s paintings. In the second, you provide a biography of the artist. Are you a painter yourself, or simply an afficianado of great art?
A: I’ve dreamed of being an artist—the truth is, I’m not an artist. But I do love all forms of art and I like paintings in particular. I’ve also spent some time reading about the history of art. Bouguereau is known for his accurate and almost life-like paintings of human subjects. Van Gogh is recognized for his creative use of shape and color to convey mood.
Q: You have a wide variety of interests: art, poetry, law, philosophy, and you speak French and Spanish. Have you traveled a lot?  
A: I’ve done some traveling but not as much as I would like. I’ve visited places in South America, the Caribbean and Europe. Most of my exposure to the topics you cite came from pursuing my own curiosity and by way of books. 
Q: Do you also read/speak Japanese? (You have mentioned that for the book of Basho Haikus you made some changes to the translations.)
A: This question makes me smile. I definitely do not speak or read Japanese. For the book you mention, I made changes to previously existing English translations of the original Japanese. Many translated haikus don’t strictly adhere to the 5-7-5 syllable structure we often hear about. As much as possible, I made it so that the haikus in my book keep this format.
Q: You studied law at Harvard and have an undergraduate degree in philosophy. That’s quite a combination. Do law and philosophy figure into the crime thriller you are currently writing?
A: The short answer is no, they don’t figure in the novel I’m writing. I haven’t really given much thought to using court-room scenes or creating a legal thriller. Believe it or not, a degree in philosophy helps you to avoid run-on sentences and to catch dangling clauses and modifiers. So, hopefully, these will be kept to a minimum in my upcoming novel.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your novel?
A: I can tell you that the protagonist is a heroine who leaves an abusive marriage and, shortly afterwards, is transformed by unexpected events. There are a couple of bad guys who figure prominently. The heroine’s new boyfriend is unassuming and clumsy in person and serves as the narrator. As you correctly pointed out previously, the novel will be a crime thriller. Other than that, my lips are sealed.
Q: On your blog and on Facebook, you often discuss aspects of the publishing world today. Can you share with readers your take on the future of publishing?
A: I need to write an essay to do full justice to that question. The bottom line is that the bulk of publishing today is already in digital in format.  Almost all my reading is done on digital devices. Many like to point out their intimate relationship with paper books. I certainly can understand that and I am very fond of paper books myself. But in the long run, the convenience of a portable library with search functions will outweigh the joys of using individual paper books.

If you want to read a couple of passages from Charles Dickens to your child one night, you are not likely to run out to buy a paperback. However, we do have immediate access to the works of Dickens, and thousands of other classics, without cost and without the inconvenience of leaving home. Project Gutenberg, along with other sites, provides this amazing service that is pretty much taken for granted.
Books are not going away anytime soon. If you insist on reading Dickens in hardcover, you can order it online and have it delivered.
Q: What is your writing schedule like? Do you have a quota for your output? So many hours/words per day?
A: I don’t have a set writing schedule. I wait until the creative idea dawns on me and then I put it in writing. The plot for my novel has grown increasingly detailed over time because I keep thinking about how I can develop the story’s theme and give depth to the characters. If I were a full-time novelist, I would probably maintain a writing schedule.  
Q: You are also involved in a publishing project to get 250 e-books published by Landmark Publications. You are at 116 at present, and all these e-books deal with landmark decisions by the Supreme Court. Can you tell us a little more about this project? Are you the editor for each book? 
A: This is where my law degree comes in handy. I select the titles and the cases included for publication. Many of the first titles we published were compilations of landmark Supreme Court decisions. We now publish a variety of casebooks in ebook format for law professionals. There seems to be a demand as this type of book is, traditionally, a very bulky hardcover and very inconvenient to carry around. 
Q: Your blog is a member the Life List Club. Can you share with readers how this club works and what inspired you as a writer to become involved?
A: As a writer, blogging is important to me for two reasons. It gives me a convenient public outlet to publish short written pieces and it helps me build an audience.
The Life List Club encourages its bloggers to set public goals and report on their progress. The goals can be as weighty as the deadline to finish a novel or as frivolous as spending less time on twitter. On Fridays, we exchange guest posts on topics that interest us. Right now, it’s a small group and we are looking for new members. We are very happy that you will be joining us soon as a new member, Elizabeth. 
Q: You both write and edit books. Which do you prefer?
A: I enjoy the editing work I do on a day to day basis. But the creative act of writing fiction is much more rewarding in the long run. I can’t wait to finish my novel and submit it to the editors. 
Do you have any special advice for budding writers?
A: The advice is to keep at it. Just start and keep writing. Not everything you write has to be published immediately. At first, it helps to have two or three seasoned editors who look over short writing samples. I have found this experience to be invaluable. 

Thank you again, Gary, for sharing your craft and knowledge. Good luck on finishing your novel soon and finding a publisher.  
Readers, you can contact Gary for more information at the following locations:

Blog: Literary Snippets:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Interview with Connie Goldsmith

Today's guest is Connie Goldsmith, an award-winning author of books on health issues. Since fiction writers often have health issues in their books, and since there is a wide market for nonfiction books for children and young adults, this is a wonderful opportunity for fiction and nonfiction writers alike to make contact with an expert. 

Thank you, Connie, for being on my blog today to discuss your writing.  
In addition to being published by a prestigious publishing company—Lerner Publishing Group’s Twenty-First Century Imprint—you’ve garnered impressive recognition for your books. A small sample: Booklist’s Top 10 Health Series for Skin Cancer in 2010; The National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council selected Superbugs Strike Back and Invisible Invaders as Outstanding Trade Book for K-12 Students, 2008 and 2006, respectively. The Society of School Librarians International named Battling Malaria best science book for grades 7-12 for 2011, and Superbugs as best science book for grades 7-12 for 2007. Several of your books have been published by Lerner but also produced in collaboration with USA Today Health Report--Diseases and Disorders

 It’s a real pleasure to have this opportunity to ask more questions about your writing career.

Thanks for your kind words, Elizabeth, and for this opportunity.

Q: For starters, you worked full-time while going to college as a single mom in order to get your RN, BSN and master’s in health care administration. Obviously you have great persistence—a necessity in a writer! You also enjoyed nursing. Now that you are such a successful author, do you still find time for nursing of any kind, or are you completely focused on being a full time writer? 
A: After working for about 15 years in hospitals, I went to work for several managed care organizations, i.e., health insurance companies. Many of the big health insurance organizations have large staffs of nurses. Some of the jobs I did in managed care included telephone nurse advice line and reviewing patient records in hospitals for quality assurance. I retired in 2011 from the “day job” but I write continuing education articles for nurses, and a pediatric health care column for a regional parenting publication. I’ll keep my RN license indefinitely because being a nurse is as much a part of who I am as being a parent or a writer.
Q: You have said that originally you wanted to be a marine biologist. Looking back, do you think that even as a marine biologist you might have gotten into writing books?  
A: It’s really hard to say what might have happened had I chosen a different career. However, being a marine biologist certainly would have given me a lot to write about.  Many nonfiction writers are scientists.
Q: Writing opportunities that came your way were related to your expertise in the field of health and nursing. Is it easier to break into non-fiction than fiction?  
A: It may be easier to break into nonfiction than fiction, possibly because so much more nonfiction is published than fiction, and there are so many opportunities and markets. People who can write in their area of professional expertise may have additional opportunities.
Q: You’ve had articles published in Cricket, Highlights, the SCBWI Bulletin, Children's Writer, and Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, and you also write book reviews for California Kids and New York Journal of Books. How do you find time to write reviews for two organizations, articles for magazines, and still manage to turn out an impressive book every one or two years?
A: It actually doesn’t feel like I work hard enough! I wrote magazine articles at the beginning of my writing career twelve years ago, but I do that less often now. Most of my writing time is spent on research and writing one book at a time, and reading and reviewing books. Also, ‘writing-related activities’ take up a lot of time. I have fewer family responsibilities than many writers (kid all grown up), so I can use most of my time exactly how I want to. Also, I’m compulsively organized! That helps.
Q: Tell us a little about your writing routine: Do you outline a book first and then do the research? Do you research as you go? Do you have a particular time of day that you set aside time for writing? Or do you have a nine-to-five writer’s day?
A: My writing day – which is most days of the week – starts out with breakfast and an hour of exercise, followed by errands outside the house. Then lunch, and a brief rest if needed (okay – I admit to a short afternoon nap on most days). Writing time is in the afternoon to early evening. It seldom exceeds four hours a day. My last few books were by mutual agreement, i.e., my editor asked me if I’d like to write them, or I suggested them to her. Doing a good outline puts me well on the way to writing a nonfiction book. The outline and research go together. My current WIP is not yet contracted, and I’ve put together a formal proposal and am working on the first few chapters. You have to do a lot of research to complete an effective outline or proposal.
Q: I read some of your reviews at New York Journal of Books, and I noticed that many of the fiction books you reviewed were dystopian fantasies or science fiction. Do you think your background in science and health makes these especially interesting to read and review?
A: I don’t think my educational background makes these books more appealing to me. I’ve enjoyed science fiction since I was a small child when my father used to read sci-fi stores by Asimov and Heinlein to me. I enjoy fantasy and futuristic stories because I can easily “suspend my disbelief” and fall into a story. I like a lot of action in stories. Some of today’s best writing is YA literature and I very much enjoy most of it. While I don’t go searching for dystopian novels, there are a lot of them published, so I end up reading quite a few of them.
Q: In California Kids, I notice you have a regular column, “Notes from the Nurse” in addition to your book reviews, and your reviews are more oriented to educational issues for younger children. Do you see yourself writing books for younger children in the future?
A: My column A Note from the Nurse is directed to the parent readers of California Kids. I review all kinds of children’s books for California Kids, except YA, because the publication is for the parents of younger children. I write themed columns that may feature ABC books one month, books about animals another month, middle grade novels, nonfiction, back to school books, and holiday themes.
Q: You also wrote a historical book, Lost in Death Valley: The True story of Four Families in California’s Gold Rush. Do you think you will be writing more historically based books in the future?
A: Good question Elizabeth! My current work in progress is about a period of American history that is not well known by young readers.
Q: How about Fiction?
A: I do write fiction and have been working on two YA and one MG novels for a long time. I just can’t get them quite polished enough! Maybe one day….
Q: What advice do you have for writers who want to write nonfiction? 
A: It helps if you’re naturally, even compulsively inquisitive. If I hear a new word or a fact I didn’t know before or someone mentions an event or animal I didn’t know about, I must find out everything I can immediately! I read with a book of maps and a huge dictionary readily available (well, these days, I Google much of it). If you’re interested in nonfiction, try children’s magazines. Try writing for your professional publications. My first published articles were in a nursing journal. Try community newspapers. Remember nonfiction covers everything from picture books to early readers to middle grade and young adult books. Don’t limit yourself to one media or genre. Writing is writing. Join SCBWI and attend conferences. We offered our first-ever nonfiction conference in Sacramento in January 2012 to a sold-out crowd. Recycle your research, i.e. use the same research in different ways for different markets. And read. Read. Read.

All good advice. 
Readers can learn more about Connie by visiting her website.  You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.
You can see her full list of books by browsing her author pages at Amazon and at Lerner Books.

As a side note, Connie has co-written with Jeanne Miller a wonderful article, 10 Tips for Internet Research, in the July/August, 2009 SCBWI Bulletin. You can read it here on p. 23
She also reviews nonfiction book proposals for a fee and can advise authors on how realistic their narrative is in a hospital scene, etc. And she blogs about health issues every 4 to 6 weeks on her website.

Readers, I know I have a few questions about the flu, since the influenza epidemic of 1918 figures in my WIP. How about you? Do you have health questions that need answering in your own WIP?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Today’s Book Review—a Poetry Collection

50 Classic Love Poems in Rhyming Verse is a lovely collection of love poems edited by Gary Gauthier, who maintains two blogs: Literary Snippets (his main blog), and Illustrated Haikus. I was the happy winner of this exquisite little ebook, described at the Amazon site as a work “for romantics who enjoy rhyming verses.” Well, that's me. I have always loved poetry—rhyming verses, haiku, free verse, you name it. But reading through this collection reminded me again how much I love the sheer music of rhyming verse when it's done well. 
Gauthier’s book is divided into six chapters, and each is about a different aspect of love:
Chapter one, Carpe Diem* (Latin for, “seize the day!”, a quotation from Horace, Oxford Dictionary)       
     These four poems describe the changes wrought by time brings and the brevity of the present. Some are more cynical than others, but the one I like best is Thomas Moore’s “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms,” a poem of assurance that while beauty fades, love endures. The poem was set to an Irish air, reminding me again that good rhyming poetry is musical. (Indeed, I heard that song sung many times when I was growing up. I’ve always loved it.)
Chapter Two, Love’s Obstacles   
     As you might guess, the ten poems in this section are all about why love can’t last or how it is thwarted in some way. Robert Burns, Andrew Marvell, William Shakespeare, Walter Savage Landor, Richard Lovelace, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Donne, Robert Frost, and William Blake all have their say. But the one that moved me the most was Landor’s poem, “The Maid’s Lament.” A young woman grieves a man she spurned while he was alive, but realizes she loved him now that it is too late. The reason I like this poem is that it has such an intricate rhythm pattern—an abrupt, shortened second line in each couplet that renders the loss more keenly.
Chapter Three, Sonnets of Shakespeare
     These thirteen sonnets run the gamut: advice to marry in order to pass on beauty; love and loss; intimations of mortality; the steadfastness of true love. I have to admit, though, I find the sonnets tough going, partly due to the formality of the structure, and partly due to the the language of his day. The combination makes for some dense reading. 
     Many pithy lines I’ve heard quoted through the years, though, still move me by their elegance:       
         “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate:”
         “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.”  
     And here and there, many single lines are simply beautiful:
          “Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”
          “Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.”
     Who else can express such ideas so eloquently? 
     In general, though, I found these sonnets the most challenging read in this collection.
Chapter Four, Love’s Aspirations
     These eight poems express more than love’s aspirations. They show love in a state of passion, of longing, or even of transcendence— sometimes obsessively, sometimes humorously. 
     The sweetest one, Ben Jonson’s “To Celia,” is one I remember from when I was a teen-ager entranced with love poems. This, too, has been set to music, and most people who read poetry would recognize the melody of the opening lines, “Drink to me, only with thine eyes, and I will pledge with mine.” What I never knew was that the original poem was by a Greek poet and Jonson merely translated it into English. (Maybe I shouldn’t say. “merely.” Who among us today can translate Greek poems into English?)
     In contrast, I had to chuckle all through Theodore Roethke’s adroit poem, “I Knew a Woman.” Consider these lines:
          “Of her choice virtues only gods should speak, 
          Or English poets who grew up on Greek  
           (I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)”
                                           - or - 
          “She moved in circles, and those circles moved.
Chapter Five, Declarations of Love
     Two of my favorites poems are included in these eight: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways,” and Robert Burns’ “A Red, Red Rose,” (a traditional Scots song set to music by Burns). Also I enjoyed the truly beautiful “At Last” by Elizabeth Akers Allen about love that has come to the speaker late in life, and Anne Bradstreet’s, “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” (The title speaks for itself.)
Chapter Six, Love’s Secrets
     As the title suggests, these seven poems deal with love’s secrets in a variety of contexts—unspoken love, unrequited love, forbidden love, etc. Sara Teasdale’s opening poem, “I Love You,” is about an undeclared love taken to the grave. Thomas Campbell’s closing poem, “Freedom and Love,” suggests that love’s real secret is that love never lasts. (Thomas Campbell, shame on you! I bid you read Anne Bradstreet and Elizabeth Barrett Browning!)
But Gary Gauthier has done a masterful job of selecting these works. This is a book to be reread many times and treasured. You can find other books edited or authored by him at his Amazon page

You can also learn more about him and follow him at: Google Plus, Literary Snippets (where he's hosting a fellow guest blogger from the Life List Club today), Illustrated Basho Haikuand his author Facebook page.

How about you? Do you like rhyming verse? What is your favorite poetry? And who is your favorite poet?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Remodel? Or Revision?,_construction,_carpentry_vc003592.html

Lately I've been a bit irregular in my blogging due to several interruptions. Christmas holidays, of course, but the most recent one is preparing our house for a modest (but disruptive) kitchen remodel. For the last ten days, while updating my Facebook page, my photo albums, while revamping my blog, I've also been packing up dishes, pots and pans, food and spices, etc., in order to empty shelves that are going to be ripped out Wednesday so that new ones can be put in. We are having a dishwasher installed as well, so we had to go purchase one. (Yes, all these years we've been washing dishes by hand.)
You never know how much you've accumulated until you have to empty your kitchen of every single item that isn't an appliance. This has also turned into a "down-sizing" event in general: I've been combing through drawers and closets in other rooms as well as the kitchen, sorting through items and taking bags and boxes to various thrift stores in the area--all the while wondering, what on earth makes us accumulate things we don't use or need? I actually started some of this purge before Christmas on the premise that someone else might have a happier Christmas as a result of my clean-out. One person's "cast off" really is another person's "great find". I know, because I hang out at thrift stores. The purge has also progressed to the basement and the garage; and I have to say, it feels great to be less encumbered.

But as I've been sorting, deciding what to keep and what to eliminate, I couldn't help noticing the parallels to revising and editing a book. (See? Once a writer, everything becomes relevant to writing.) Isn't that what we do in a rewrite? Pare down. Pull out what isn't essential to the story. Decide what to keep, what to eliminate. (In some cases, what to save for another story with a better fit--not too different from trundling items over to another location, like a thrift store, where they can be put to better use.)

Maybe it's the effect of the year turning--out with the old, in with the new--but I seem to be revising and editing everywhere I look: my WIP, my blog, my Facebook, our home. "Eliminate clutter" is becoming my mantra for the year--and it wasn't even on my list of New Year's resolutions.

Feels good, though.

How about you? What revisions are going on in your life at the dawn of this new year?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cooking Up Some Changes

Dear Blog Friends,

As you can see, I've been busy revamping my blog. I've added some new pages. I'd really llike some feedback on how you like it or how you think it could be improved.

Looking forward to your comments.

Mrs. Seraphina