Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Hauls: The Traveling Writer's Souvenirs

Lately I've heard about so-called "haul" videos, in which young women show off the clothing, shoes, and accessories scored on a shopping trip. I wondered what this might light like for those of us whose idea of a fab shopping expedition involved book stores. Talk about judging a book by its cover!

I spent yesterday in a typical college town, and while my son was busy elsewhere, I hunted down the requisite off-campus independent used bookstore. The guidebook said it was "Pennsylvania's largest" which left me salivating – until I arrived to find the air conditioning had broken down the night before. It was 95 and beastly humid. I lasted 15 minutes only because there was a big fan next to the Memoir and the Writing sections.

Instead of a video, I'll just list the title, author, a quickie synopsis, and then open to a random page and quote a few lines. Here are the memoirs. I'll be back tomorrow or the next day with the writing books.

The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family, by Jeanne Marie Laskas (Bantam/Dell 2003). Motherhood, adoption, family, farming. "I sit here staring at her picture, my feet digging into a snoring beagle, and I start calculating. I think about digging to China. I think about getting Billy in here with a backhoe I think of packing myself in a big wooden box and mailing myself to China. I think of the satellite dish on my roof, beaming TV in from outer space. Couldn't I rig it to somehow beam me up and then down to China? I think of Bewitched and Samantha and I Dream of Jeanie and My Favorite Martian and so many of the friends I grew up with who could just click and go. I think of the moon. I wonder if anyone has even shown her the moon. I think of writing her a letter immediately and telling her about the moon."

No More Words: A Journal of my Mother Anne Morrow Lindbergh, by Reeve Lindbergh (Touchstone/S&S 2001). Dementia, silence, mothers, daughters, notoriety, acceptance and loss. "I think she accepts what is offered out of ingrained politeness, but would be perfectly content to sit and stare and do nothing else. The rest of us are not content with this, however. It makes us uncomfortable. We want her to be doing something, thinking something, reading something, participating in some way that we can understand."

The Road Home, by Eliza Thomas (Dell 1997). Solitude, making a home, rural life, unexpected family. "This time, at least I stopped my car. He looked like the same dog, and though he was a bit shy, I coaxed him into my car easily enough. He was skinny and caked with weeks of muck, had on an old green collar but no tags, and was evidently lost. As I'd thought, people at work took it well in stride when I showed up with him; they had dealt with far worse emergencies than my dirty and excitable beagle puppy. I kept him under my desk, where he barked all day, and then took him home"

Have you had a good book haul lately?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Author Interviews: Reruns Worth Repeating

There are some interesting author interviews lined up for later this summer, but in the meantime, I thought I'd point you to a few of the best I've had the privilege to feature here over the past year.

Vicki Forman, author of the Bakeless Prize-winning memoir, This Lovely Life, gave this lengthy primer on everything she did, should have done, and what all first-time authors should do, to help market, promote and publicize their books.

In Leslea Newman's interview, the poet, children's book author, and novelist discusses crossing genres, thinking big, discipline and listening to good advice.

Sue William Silverman, a memoirist and MFA faculty, and the author of the book Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir, gave me this long interview about the craft of memoir writing.

These interviews are on the long side, but in my opinion, all three interview subjects – who were so generous with their answers – have so much excellent advice to share, the interviews are all well worth the time to read. Enjoy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: June 25th Edition

Brushes With Fame is one of the "story projects" over at the SMITH magazine site (home of Six Word Memoirs), featuring very short glimpses of a time when an average person unexpectedly crossed paths with a celebrity. Mine is here.

►I loved this feel-good story, about a small group of friends who made certain their deceased friend's only novel manuscript made its way to publication. Seems to me one of the best and highest uses of "self" publication.

►Speaking of self publishing, be sure to read Laura Miller's piece at Salon about how the ability for anyone anywhere to publish anything affects the reading public.

►Two weeks ago I was suffering through a painful physical problem. I could have used this advice about writing through pain, both physical and emotional, from Strangling My Muse.

►Memoir writers might want to check out these tips to move their stories away from the "play by play" and toward a richer narrative.

►Writers who want to write for money? Oh, the gall! Don't skip the comments on this piece at The Rumpus.

►And finally, there are few things I like more than hearing of the publishing success of one of the talented writers with whom I've worked. Many months ago, during my online class, when Chris Harder was working on essays about the confluence of being a soccer fan and an at-home-Dad, I had a feeling I'd see one published around World Cup time. And last week, he scored this piece in the Sunday New York Times.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In which a writer learns from the dreck in the draft.

This week, while revising a 1,000 word personal essay, I dropped the pages of the first draft on the floor and did a double take when they scattered, when I noticed something kind of odd. On each page, in at least two places, I'd drawn a straight line through the final line of a paragraph; over the five pages, that amounted to about 10 paragraphs where I'd deleted the last sentence.

What was going on here?

Twice before on the blog I've written about writing past the ending of a piece, and how I've occasionally find the real ending by lopping off the last sentence or even paragraph. But this was something else. Here, the deletions came throughout the piece.

I sat down to reread the draft I'd just edited to see what was going on. I found that those paragraph-ending sentences either: just didn't fit, or were clever but really not important, or were interesting but belonged in another future piece. A few made me wince because I'd already made the same point a few sentences back, but obviously wasn't confident enough in my own prose.

Only two of those chopped-off sentences were placed elsewhere within the essay.

As I thought about how the piece had developed both in terms of the idea (which came to me in a bit of an OMG flash), and the urgency of meeting a tighter than usual deadline, I realized I had compressed some writing steps, heading straight from idea flash to first draft, without any of the usual thinking/prewriting/planning/mind dump I like to employ before that official first draft.

That's not always a bad thing, and for short pieces like that, it happens frequently when an idea and the narrative arc and most of the words all collide almost simultaneously, and my brain screams for me to get it on the page immediately.

The essay was completed, submitted, accepted.

But the experience made me wonder what other writing-revising-editing patterns I may be missing, and reminded me of the value of keeping older drafts and occasionally looking back over them to see what I might learn.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Author Interview: Jane Green

Promises To Keep, released in the U.S. in hardcover last week, is the newest novel from Jane Green, a British author now living in Connecticut, who has been credited as one of the first to help carve the chick-lit genre in the mid 1990s.

But according to at least one recent review, that doesn't exactly describe her current work.. Alicia Rancilio of the Associate Press wrote, "Jane Green's books are often described as a beach read or chick lit, but don't mistake those labels as meaning frivolous or light. Green's writing has both heart and depth. Her latest novel, "Promises to Keep," is the story of Callie Perry, wife, mother, photographer — and breast cancer survivor."

Green took some time recently to answer just a few of my questions.

LR: If I’m counting correctly, this is your 12th novel. In what ways have you found the writing process has gotten easier, and in what ways does it get more difficult?

JG: Life gets busier and busier, so far more discipline is required as the years progress. It is definitely harder to make the time, but at the end of the day it’s my job, and whether I feel like it or not, I have to sit down at my desk and get those words on the page.

LR: Having begun your writing career in feature journalism and public relations, are there any skills you learned which are still beneficial to you now as a novelist?

JG: The discipline of journalism is the greatest gift I was ever given. When you have an editor demanding a thousand words in an hour, you do it. You can’t claim writer’s block, or lack of inspiration. You just write, because it’s your job, and I apply the exact same principle to writing novels.

LR: Do you have any atypical writing advice? Anything you’ve done as a writer, especially in the writing process, that is maybe a little bit unusual but which has worked for you?

JG: No Just keep writing. The only way to unlock the creativity is to write through it. You may think you have writer’s block, and it may feel like squeezing blood from a stone, but the only way to free the creativity is to keep writing until the block disappears.

LR: No matter who they are or what they are doing in the story, all of your female protagonists are so damned likeable. Any tips for developing characters readers will want to follow around for a few hundred pages?

JG: Like them yourself, and identify with them. The key to your writing resonating is to keep them emotionally honest, and I’ve always found it easiest to write about subjects I know, or am passionate about.

LR: On your website you advise aspiring authors, “Just keep writing. Don’t go to conferences and classes and workshops, because that is just procrastination. A little of that is fine, but the people who become professional conference-goers, are actually procrastinating, and just putting off the actual business of writing.” Can you elaborate?

JG: I meet people all the time who call themselves writers, but have not written anything. Instead of writing, they study writing. The only way to be a writer, is to write.

LR: While promoting this book, are you already deep at work on the next? Do you find that talking a lot about the just-published (or soon-to-be-published) book makes it difficult to switch gears and continue on another?

JG: I’m currently taking a break whilst coming up with the storyline for the next…I’m hoping inspiration will strike very soon.

LR: Any upcoming readings or other events on your calendar?

JG: A number of fundraisers for breast cancer, and several book readings around the country. Check the calendar on my website.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do you write young or old? And does it matter?

I was recently told by an editor who handles submissions at a print and online magazine that she can spot an “older” writer by how that writer observes grammar rules and uses punctuation. For example, old writers, she tells me, often use the serial comma, capitalize the first letter following a colon, put two spaces between sentences, and occasionally use what she calls “grandma” words -- like delightful, lovely and elegant (notice how I didn’t use the serial comma after lovely?).

Also, she says, older writers use too many dashes (both en and em), structure a piece in longer paragraphs, put “the end” or a dingbat after the last line, submit work that has been meticulously proofed, sometimes set up their email cover notes to like traditional business letters, and are often extremely well-mannered. Apparently these last two -- which might strike you as desirable -- can backfire with a much younger editor who is used to abbreviated quick-fire notes, interprets politesse as unnecessary blather, and sees a long missive as nothing more than a time suck.

Younger writers, she said, flaunt rules, get to the point (sometimes too) quickly, skimp on even perfunctory politeness in their cover notes, apparently never print out anything for a manual proofreading and instead rely entirely on spell check (resulting in correctly spelled words that are wrong in context – from/form).

The younger group, she told me, also often can’t correctly identify the form which they’ve written or propose to write (essay, opinion piece, feature, travel narrative), and more or less have never heard of keeping good-faith business interactions confidential, instead posting guarded editorial email addresses, direct phone numbers, fees, contract clauses and other information online, sometimes in an unnervingly near-instantaneous click.

Younger writers, she also observed (or at least those who appear or sound young via email, texts, and Twitter), use more pop culture references, respond much faster to an editor's notes (not, she admitted, always a good thing, often indicating lack of careful thought), and include more personal information in their communications (this she likes, as it gives her a window into a new-to-her writer's worldview).

So who, I asked her, who would she rather work with to fill her magazine and site? "I couldn’t care less. In the end, it's about the voice, the writing, their publishing experience, a great idea, and professionalism. Those come in all ages and styles. The rest is incidental. "


This editor works at a general interest media venue, but I wonder if the same is true for those whose publications/sites which are much more narrowly focused on a niche demographic. Do they weed out writers at one or the other end of the age spectrum based on how young or old they seem to be on the page? And how does one define young and old? Is it simply all relative to the age of the editor at the other end of the exchange? Or to the perceived readership of the media outlet?

Sometimes, when I'm writing for a venue whose readership is a lot younger than I am, I do find myself looking more carefully at my language, the cadence of the sentences, and spending a bit more time researching cultural references that will speak to that demographic. But that's when I'm writing the piece. I never really thought about how the query letters and other editorial communications might come into play. Have you?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: June 18th Edition

I'm dealing with an annoying, painful (but thankfully not-serious physical ailment); hence the lack of regular posts. There is a definite connection between unremitting pain, lack of sleep, and the inability to write (or even think) clearly. Things are under control now, so I hope to resume posting, beginning with this short, catch-up Friday list. Many thanks to those who sent emails asking if I was okay. I am.

► At YourTango's LoveMom blog this week, I wrote a piece titled, "Does Parenthood Mean You're Grounded?" For a long time, I thought (and acted as if) it did, and then I smartened up. I hope you'll click over and read it.

Shelf is a planned iPad magazine, set to debut in September, with the emphasis on books, reviews, independent bookstores, author interviews and excerpts. The first 10,000 people to connect on Facebook (search for Shelf Magazine) or contact the publisher by email, get a free download of the premiere issue.

► If you haven't read last week's guest post by novelist Laraine Herring and her new book, Ghost Swamp Blues, I hope you will. Leave a comment at that post to win a signed copy of her book (now extended until June 25).

►And finally, this fun little Tumblr, SlushPileHell, where "a grumpy literary agent wades through query fails" kept me amused this past week or so.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: June 11th Edition

► Novelist, small press publisher, and dynamic personality Kelly Link has some excellent, nitty-gritty advice about writing, reading and publishing over at Anna’s Book Blog. I’ve heard Kelly speak several times, and although I don’t think I’ll ever write anything in her genre (paranormal and fantasy fiction), I always walk away with fresh insights and a desire to hear more.

► The name of this blog says it all: White Readers Meet Black Authors. It’s a good one.

► This exhaustive list of ways to jump-start, restart, and fire up your writing and writing process has something for every type of writer, at every skill level.

► My final link to one of those “writers over/under X age” lists: 40+ writers over 40. Enough said.

► Two book giveaways still active here on the blog: An essay collection, Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives (my story is on page 111; must enter by 6/13); and a novel about the south and so much more, Ghost Swamp Blues, by Laraine Herring (enter by 6/19).

Have a great weekend

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Notes From the Third Row, Part I

A while back, I wrapped up a series of posts here called Gold in Them Notebooks, in which I randomly opened notebooks filled during my MFA program, and shared notes from faculty seminars, presentations and guest writer talks. Later in another post, I mentioned that this year, to pay off the loans which made that MFA possible, I was planning to forego any writers conferences in 2010 – much as it hurt.

In last summer’s massive office clean-out, I discovered plenty of notes I’d taken at writing conferences and other literary events over the years. This is my long-winded way of introducing Notes From the Third Row, in which I’ll share some of what I’ve collected while sitting in the audience at a variety of literary events. Maybe it will be almost as good as being there. Okay, it won’t be. But it might be fun, and maybe a little bit inspiring.

To get started on a light note, at a past AWP Conference, I sat in on a panel discussion titled, “Do You Have to be Mean to be Funny?”

Everyone on the panel agreed that the author who directs humor first at himself was on the right track for laughs. Next in line are public figures. Roger Rosenblatt noted that poking fun in print worked best when the writer chose “big targets – Presidents are good. Or else it’s bullying.

With satire, most of the work is done for you by pure fact – the stupid thing that public person has done – and then you’re just reporting the ridiculous.”

David Rakoff agreed: “Always make fun UP the ladder, and for things people can be held accountable for.”

On the other hand, Patricia Marx added, “I don’t think you have to be mean to be funny, but it really helps. Let’s try an experiment: you try to be nice to me all night and we’ll see if I laugh.”

What have you heard at conferences or other events that has stuck with you? Let me know in comments, please!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Guest Blogger Laraine Herring on Ghost Swamp Blues: The Journey into a Novel

I once reluctantly sat in on a presentation about how yoga could help one's writing. About midway through, something clicked; not enough to send me to yoga class, but later the same day, I bought a book off the conference sales table titled, Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice. It seemed in sync without being too touchy-feely for pragmatic me. Since then, I've read and reread it, recommended it to others, used chapters in my teaching, and, to my great delight, struck up an online friendship with the author, Laraine Herring.

Laraine directs the creative writing program at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona, and teaches workshop at the
Omega Institute (Rhinebeck, NY) and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health (Lenox, MA). She's also an award winning short story writer, Pushcart nominee, an interesting blogger, and with the publication of Ghost Swamp Blues this week, a novelist. She's stopped by to let us in on her journey to that novel.

Please welcome Laraine Herring.

"As a writer, I am obsessed with secrets. Where there’s a secret, there’s energy, both the energy of the secret trying to escape and the energy of the secret-keeper trying to keep it contained. You can’t help but have tension when you’ve got a secret. All the characters in Ghost Swamp Blues have secrets. I wanted to explore the power hidden in the things we don’t tell each other. I wanted to look at my own family history in the context of a flawed human condition. And, I wanted to tell a ghost story that wasn’t cheesy. I wanted to experiment with time and point of view and I wanted to see if it was possible to dramatize regret.

I also wanted to pull people into the landscape of the book, much like the landscape pulls and ultimately swallows my characters. The first image that came to me was a pink-feathered hat floating on a swamp. That image raised many questions: Whose hat is it? What is it doing in the water? Those questions started to pull me into the setting of the book, Alderman, North Carolina, a fictional town based loosely on Wilmington, North Carolina.

The next influence was my grandmother’s death. She was a Southern matriarch, rich in contradiction. Her racist worldview, dominant in many Southern whites born in the early twentieth century, combined with the come-to-Jesus dunkings of the Southern Baptist Church raised a lot of questions for me. How do these two diametrically opposed viewpoints exist under the same skin-shell? What has to be denied for that to occur?

My desire to try and understand her better provided the fuel needed for the long journey of a novel. Even though the events in the novel are not based on events from my family’s life, the concepts explored are very personal. I think to make it through the ups and downs of a novel’s creation, there has to be a burning personal question as well as the burning question of the text itself. They can be the same or not, but they both need to be there so the author has the stamina to keep going. If the author isn’t invested in the exploration of the book, then the reader surely won’t be.

In the novel, Lillian Green, one of my protagonists, witnesses her older brother Tommy lynch a black man, Gabriel Wilson, in 1949. She remains silent to protect her brother, and the novel is about what happens to her and those around her as a result of her keeping that secret. Her driving question, “How far would you go to protect someone you love?” grew out of my attempt to reconcile the many contradictions of my grandmother. As a Southerner, I couldn’t help but absorb and observe the schizophrenic racism in my community. For example, when our family moved to Arizona from North Carolina in 1981, our former next-door neighbors built an orange fence between our houses when they found out we had sold our home to a black couple. I left the South with the question: Why did they feel so much hatred towards people they’d never met? I think everything I’ve written in my life deals in some way with this question.

This manuscript for this novel landed me my agent in 2003. Since then, we've sold other books together, including Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice (Shambhala), and Lost Fathers: How Women Can Heal from Adolescent Father Loss (Hazelden), but not the novel, which was a hard sell. Too literary for popular fiction. Too contemporary for literary fiction. All sorts of reasons why it didn’t fit anywhere, why it wouldn’t work, but we kept trying. I kept revising. I paid attention to the comments from editors who took the time to write more than the “I just didn’t fall in love with it” standard rejection. It has gone through nine complete rewrites – changing everything from point of view to audience (I wrote one draft as a YA novel) and many more edits.

I honestly did not give up hope though. My characters wouldn’t let me let this book go. They’ve helped me to grow, which is reason enough for writing. I’ve lived with them for a decade. We persevered. We waited. We grew. Now, it’s time to set them free to join the imaginations of others."

Note from Lisa: We are giving away a signed copy of Ghost Swamp Blues. To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment on this post by midnight Saturday, June 19. There must be a way for me to contact you by email to obtain your U.S. postal address. You may also ask Laraine questions, and she'll stop by periodically until then, to answer (also in comments).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: June 4th Edition

►The Paris Review now has a daily blog intended, according to the quarterly's editor as "…a way to keep in touch with our readers between issues, and to call attention to our favorite writers and artists in something close to real time."

► I loved this many-times-published Canadian author's letter to his younger writer self.

► Interesting guest post by Neil George Ayres over on Juxtabook, about his latest book, The New Goodbye, a novel that's also a multi-arts iPhone app.

► Check out the new online magazine, The Good Men Project, and an interview with the editor.

► Yes, lists are often tedious, perhaps even the New Yorker's upcoming inventory of top writers under age 40 (due out Monday). But the drama behind the scenes is usually fun, though some might find that also tedious. Well, Ward Six has had enough and counters with this list of 10 productive writers over age 80.

► Some interesting interviews with writers about craft at the website for Seeing and Writing.

► I've occasionally linked over to Pimp My Novel, a good (and often entertaining) source of publishing industry information. The blog needs five guest posters for later this month (it's competitive, folks).

► And finally, if you are interested in the process of editing an anthology, scroll down to yesterday's post, an interview with Verna Dreisbach, who edited the recently-released essay collection, Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives. Plus, I’m giving away a free copy, so leave a comment at that post (not here), for a shot at the book.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Interview: Verna Dreisbach, anthology editor & agent

I've loved horses and writing since I can remember liking anything. As a young child, I wrote about everything and read about and pined for horses before getting my first horse at 14. Soon I was submitting work to equine publications and Horse of Course magazine gave me my first clip. I went on to support myself for several years post-college as a freelancer for equestrian media. Then, about 20 years ago, I stopped -- riding and writing about horses. I had other things to write about and no longer had the time or budget for riding. But more recently I began to think about what horses have meant to me beyond the pleasures of the saddle, and a series of essays emerged, one of which, "It Always Happens One Summer," is included in Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives. The editor of that book, Verna Dreisbach, is also a literary agent, and of course she's a rider and horse owner, too. She recently agreed to answer some of my questions.

LR. You are a busy literary agent, and also a graduate student, mother and horse owner. With all that on your plate, why this collection, and why now?

VD: Surprisingly, the opportunity came to me. I attended the Willamette Writers Conference a few years ago where I met editor Krista Lyons from Seal Press. After talking literary agent/editor business stuff, we started talking freely. I talked about my love of horses and how, because of horses, I found my own passion for writing. Little did I know that Krista was looking for an editor for an anthology about women and horses (later to become Why We Ride). By the end of our conversation, we were both jumping up and down because I had a dream opportunity (anything to do with horses) and she had an editor to the anthology.

LR: You were able to secure a foreword from Jane Smiley – quite a coup. How did that come about?

VD: I met Jane Smiley at the East of Eden Writers Conference a few years ago. I asked her if she’d be interested in participating in a written interview for a newsletter for the young writers organization I founded and we started a correspondence then. Since we both obviously have a love of horses, it was just a simple question and she happily agreed to write the foreword. I am so grateful to her and I have no doubt that part of the success of the book has to do with her contribution.

LR: Did any of the contributor pieces surprise you? Make you cry?

VD: I’m a softie for those father/daughter stories. I felt the loss and cried over "Owning Clydes" (Kate St. Vincent Vogl), felt the pain in "Getting Back on the Horse" (Kara Gall), and felt the jealousy at the fun Michele Scott and her dad had in her story "The Billy Dal Gang."

LR: What can you tell us about the selection process?

VD: I waited until I had the majority of the stories in hand before reading them. I wanted to keep the experience all within a short period of time so that I could get the full feel for the momentum and diversity of the book – the same way a reader would. I wanted to make sure that each story was unique.

I had innumerable “first horse” stories that didn’t go much deeper than that. For instance, I knew when I came upon Dee Ambrose Stahl’s story, "Painted Christmas Dreams," that this was the "first horse" story I wanted to include in the anthology. Not only was this her first horse, but she didn’t get her first horse until later in life and it was her husband of many years who finally helped make her dream come true. This is an example of where the horse becomes much more than a horse and becomes an integral part of our lives and the lives of the people around us. I stayed on task with my goal but found that near the end, I had to seek out a few stories that were different enough from the others, leading to the inclusion of Jacqueline Winspear’s story, "It’s All in the T – or Perhaps the D" and I’m fortunate to have her contribution in this book as well.

LR: Some writers think that editing a collection is a relatively easy venture. I know it’s not. Can you break it down a little?

VD: If you’re only choosing stories and sticking them together in a book, then sure, that’s easy. I doubt it will bring much success or good reviews, so I’d advise against it. An editor’s job is time consuming. I had to make sure the stories I chose were diverse and unique enough for an entire collection, one that would keep the reader entertained and not feeling as if they’ve read the same story over and over again, 27 times.

There were some contributors who needed minimal editorial advice and some that needed more. I enjoyed the diversity of writers as well as the diversity of stories. I did have two people who refused to make any changes to their stories and subsequently, they were not included. I didn’t feel that they had gone deep enough into their story, the connection between writer-life-horse to make a story that would make enough of an impact on the reader. We can all enjoy our horses, but I was looking for the stories about the horses that helped shape us as women and the way we looked at the people and the world around us.

As you can imagine, my job as an editor is far easier working with writers who are willing to revise and edit their pieces. And, my job as an editor is to work with the writer so that they feel they’ve maintained the scope, purpose and voice of the story intact throughout the revision process, if it’s a major revision.

LR: As a physical object, how do you feel about the finished product? I notice it’s slightly smaller sized than many trade soft covers, includes photos of the writers with their horses, and makes generous use of white space.

VD: I’m very happy with the finished product. I actually like the size, somewhat unique. It also follows the same pattern as the other books in the Seal series, Woman’s Best Friend and Cat Women. Inside, the reader gets the sense that they are reading through either a diary or scrap book, the way the photos are positioned within the text and with the photo corner tabs (also on the cover). I’m very glad that photos of the writers with their horses were included!

LR: What did you enjoy the most about bringing this book to fruition?

VD: The best part was meeting (eventually I hope in person) all of the contributors from the book. I feel like I have 26 new girlfriends that I hope to keep in touch with over the years. I’m thinking about an annual or semi-annual riding trip with all of them. What a great way to stay in touch and keep up our horse riding/writing skills!

LR: Anything you hope not to go through again?

VD: There were a couple of crazy stories - one woman wrote about how she smacked her horse on a regular basis with her riding crop to get it to mind her. I really wonder what she was thinking submitting her story to this anthology? The collection is supposed to be inspirational stories about women and their horses and the only thing I was inspired to do was to call animal control.

LR: I understand you have some readings and other events lined up.

VD: Yes! A number of contributors will be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, WA, on June 5th at 4:00 pm and then the following day, June 6th, in Portland, OR, at Powell’s Books at 7:30 pm. I’m looking forward to it.

LR: Many people who read this blog will want to know more about what kinds of books/authors you are on the lookout for as an agent.

VD: As an agent, I’m looking for something unique and well written. Unfortunately, the majority of submissions are from writers who have not taken the time to perfect their manuscript or hone their craft. I’m also looking for professionals – those who view this industry like any other profession and take it seriously and act accordingly. Also, many writers who query agents are just plain crazy or rude. We get really excited when we see quality writing and a sane person all at one time! Other than that, I’m looking for both fiction and non-fiction authors, especially books with a political, economic or social context.

LR: Do you have another book project of your own in progress?

VD: I would love to do another anthology and I’m not all that particular as to the subject matter. I enjoy working with writers, helping them deepen their stories to share their memories in a way that moves readers. I’m finishing my MA degree this year and I don’t have as much time to write what I’d like. Once I’m done with my degree, I’ll have more freedom, less time constraints to write more – something that’s not necessarily “assigned”.

Note: I am giving away a copy of Why We Ride. If you'd like to enter the random drawing, post a comment here by midnight, Sunday, June 13. Be sure there is a way for me to contact you via email to obtain your U.S. postal address.