Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Your Book Was Rejected by Phyllis Humphrey

WHY YOUR BOOK WAS REJECTED

Recently The Writer Magazine listed reasons for a book being turned down by a publisher. Here’s their rejection statement and my interpretation:

1. "Too much competition." Other books, magazine stories or the Internet.

2. "Too similar to a book already on our list." Someone else got to the publisher first.

3. "Too small in sales potential." Small market for your plot, characters, time period or setting.

4. "Too narrow in scope." This is more applicable to non-fiction, but it could also mean you didn’t take advantage of the Civil War drama possibilities in your 1860s werewolf novel.

5. "Not enough author recognition." Sorry but you’re not Grisham.

6. "Beyond the author’s credentials." This might also apply more to non-fiction, but could also mean you didn’t tell the editor you were a vampire in a previous life.

7. "Poorly written."

8. "Too expensive to produce or promote." If it’s your first novel, they don’t want to take a chance on a 200,000 word book.

9. "Outside our purview." Wrong publisher for your baby.

10. "Not remarkable, surprising or different enough."

Most of these reasons, except number seven, have nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Okay, you could have avoided number nine if you’d done more research, but it’s not your fault a bunch of other people wrote about cloning Jesus the same time you did, or that the publisher already bought a Jesus-cloning novel, or your name isn’t John Grisham. (By the way, his first book was turned down too.)

The rest of the reasons are based solely on an editor’s
opinion. He thinks you should have added more backstory, or that it won’t sell because of the time period, or the length of the book or his particular dislikes. He could be wrong.

Another article (By Ruth Harris on Anne R. Allen’s Blog) was similar but added a few other things that are not your fault:

2. Wildlife Infestation. A cockroach jumped out of the box with your manuscript.

5. PMS Low testosterone. The boss is in a lousy mood today and would turn down GONE WITH THE WIND. (Oh, wait, someone did turn that down.)

7. Someone you never heard of hates it. The boss, or his girlfriend hates romance, westerns, horror (insert genre).

8. Cash Crunch. They won’t admit it, but sometimes editors are told to buy nothing that year because the company’s in financial doo-doo.

9. Corporate Canoodling. A reorganization caused half the staff to be fired.

10. They hate your agent. He once did something the editor didn’t like, so those submissions are always rejected. That’ll show ‘em.

11. Oops. Sometimes the editors are wrong. They reject books that turn out to be mega-hits. Harry Potter, anyone?


So that’s why, through no fault of your own, your book was rejected. Don’t let it get you down. Just keep submitting your book until someone reads it who can actually buy it. Even if it takes 19 tries (like my novel SOUTHERN STAR).

Phyllis Humphrey has had eleven romance novels published (Kensington, Avalon, Barbour Books, etc.) plus short stories and articles in magazines. She was an RWA Golden Heart finalist, won the San Diego Book Award in 2002 and was a finalist in the St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic mystery contest in 2012.


Phyllis recently released Free Fall
Learn more about this book here.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Reviewing Voices (thriller) by Arnaldur Indridason


(once on the page, scroll down)

My maternal ancestors immigrated to Canada from Iceland in the 1800's. A friend who knew of my connection to Iceland recommended the thriller author Arnaldur Indridason.

I walked into my local bookstore. To be honest, I was expecting to have to continue my search off island. But I was shown to a shelf that held a collection of mystery and thriller authors.

"Let me see," the bookstore owner said. "I know he's here somewhere. Ah, there he is." She offered me Voices:  A Reykjavik Thriller.

I read the back cover blurb:  The Christmas rush is at its peak in a grand Reykjavik hotel when Inspector Erlendur is called in to investigate a murder. The hotel Santa has been stabbed to death, and Erlendur and his fellow detectives find no shortage of suspects between the hotel staff and the international travelers staying for the holidays. As Christmas Day approaches, Erlendur must deal with his difficult daughter, pursue a possible romantic interest, and untangle a long-buried web of malice and greed to find the murderer. Voices is a brutal, soulful noir from the chilly shores of Iceland.

I flipped the book open and discovered that Arnaldur Indridason had written three other books--Jar City, Silence of the Grave, The Draining Lake before writing Voices. And this book was translated from Icelandic by Bernard Scudder.

Writer--Translator, what an interesting relationship that must be. The writer conceives of the story and brings it into being but the translator must adopt it and raise it to introduce it to a new audience. It is a weighty commitment requiring skill and insight. He must be the hand of the author. To do this, it seems to me, he must not only know the story thoroughly but also be able to write in the style of the author.

If you're interested in working with or working as a translator, check out Joanna Penn's page

Voices is described as brutal and some parts are, but it is also peppered with humour.

' "Sex has become much more complex than just the old missionary position," Sigurdur Oli said...
"Why do they always talk about the missionary position. What's the mission?"
"I don't know." Sigurdur Oli sighed. Sometimes Erlendur asked questions that irritated him because they were so simple but at the same time so infinitely complicated and dull.
"Is it something from Africa?"
"Or Catholicism," Sigurdur Oli said...
"And then there's one group that uses condoms more than other people."
"Really?" Sigurdur Oli said, his face one huge question mark.
"Prostitutes."
"Prostitutes?" Sigurdur Oli repeated. "Hookers? Do you think there are any here?"
Erlendur nodded.
"They do a lot of missionary work at hotels."
(p. 23)

and

' "But you'd sacked him and were going to chuck him out," Erlendur said. "Then someone comes along and kills him. It hasn't exactly been going well for him recently." ' (p. 31)

Initially, Erlendur struck me as a man who enjoyed wallowing in, embracing, nurturing misery.

'Christmas meant nothing to [Erlendur]. He had a few days holiday owing and nothing to do with them...
Sometimes he bought a bottle of Chartreuse at Christmas and had a glass beside him while he read about ordeals and death in the days when people travelled everywhere on foot and Christmas could be the most treacherous time of the year. Determined to visit their loved ones, people would battle with the forces of nature, go astray and perish; for those awaiting them back home, Christmas turned from a celebration of salvation to a nightmare. The bodies of some travellers were found. Others were not. They were never found.

These were Erlendur's Christmas carols.' (p. 26 - 27)

But as I continued to read I realized that there were reasons why Erlendur is the way he is--reasons beyond his control. He's haunted by a boyhood lose. And I began to think that my prior judgment of him was too harsh. I read on as he tried to form a romantic relationship. Even though it was very hard for him, he reached out to Valgerdur. But inevidentably the strain was too great and the date ended abruptly.

The judgment of outsiders seems to be a reoccurring theme. For example...

'Sigurdur Oli explained the death of the doorman and told them about the note in his room. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bartlet [American tourists] stared at the detectives as if they had suddenly been transported to a different planet...
"A murder?" Henry groaned. "At this hotel?"
"Oh my God," his wife said and sat down on the double bed... "You have murders in Iceland?"...
Rarely [Sigurdur Oli] said, trying to smile.' (p. 51 - 52)

and also...

' "The teacher said you make unrealistic demands on your son."...
"What's unrealistic? I want him to get an education and make something of himself."
"Understandably," Elinborg said. "But he's eight years old, dyslexic and borderline hyperactive.
...It all mounts up, and in the end you explode when Addi, who's surely spilled milk and dropped plates on the floor all his life, knocks a bottle of Drambruie onto the marble floor of your lounge." (p. 153 - 154)

This last scene especially caught--as I have dyslexia. Do you think Elinborg is saying that there is something especially annoying about dyslexic people? Do you think she's suggesting that they (we...I) deserve pity? Or maybe I'm just being sensitive?

I am also caught by the beauty of the descriptions...

'Snowflakes fell cautiously to the ground, as if the heavens had split open and their dust was being strewn over the world.' (p. 32)

As well as the characters, who seemed so real...

' "Do you know what it's like not to be the favourite!... What it's like just being ordinary and never earning any particular attention. It's like you don't exist. You're taken for granted, not favoured or shown any special care. And all the time someone you consider your equal is championed like the chosen one, born to bring infinite joy to his parents and the whole world. You watch it day after day, week after week and year after year and it never ceases, if anything it increases over the years, almost...almost worship...

It can only spawn jealously...Anything else would not be human. And instead of suppressing it the next thing you know is that you're nourished by it, because in some odd way it makes you feel normal." ' (p. 222)

Arnaldur Indridason is a skilled author who switches back and forth in time with different characters--in the same chapter--and only employs asterisk to guide the reader--yet I never got lost.

I was helpless, putty in his hands, until the final word, on the final page--unable to do anything but read. My only disappointment was that I didn't find out what happened to neither the boy with dyslexia nor his parents. But it was, after all, only a secondary plot and clearly not meant to be resolved.

I enjoyed reading this interview with Arnaldur Indridason. In it, Arnaldur addresses how the Icelandic sagas (the Eddas) have influenced his own work.

If you'd like to learn more about Christmas in Iceland and how Icelandic Canadians celebrate Christmas, I'd highly recommend you read Volume 66 #1 (2013) of the Icelandic Connection.
***
Sharing my author journey...



Last week was all about revisions as I prepared the Lyndi Wimpel series for another round of submissions. This series currently 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Interview with Author Jan Degrass

The Prison Dance is available on order from any bookstore through Ingrams and can be ordered in paperback or as an ebook from Amazon.com.  In addition, the book is listed in Ingram's data base as returnable until August 2014, an offer any bookseller can take advantage of in tat time period. For further information go to the website  www.theprisondance.com

How did you become an author?
I became an author because I had promised Palestinian women political prisoners, many years ago, that I would tell their story. I also had to write about my experiences as a way to attempt to understand what I had personally been through. Not least, I had to write because creative expression has always been as necessary to me as breath.

What was your first published piece?
My memoir The Prison Dance is my first published piece.



(please click on images to embolden)

Where was it published?-How long ago?
It was published with Xlibris a year ago.  

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
Before writing, I was a contemporary ballet dancer, touring and performing internationally. When I began to write I was still teaching dance and choreographing. The creative process was ingrained in me and this was extremely useful when I set out to write.

What inspires you?
Tales of hardships endured and the triumph of the human spirit inspire me. I read a great deal and am constantly in awe and grateful to authors who can translate their life experiences with deftly chosen words. Although I read a lot of fiction, I especially love memoirs of adventure travel and exploration, prison survival experiences, altruistic aid and activism, and lifetime goals achieved through self-sacrifice and innovative or even synchronistic means.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique
I am nothing if not tenacious. It took me a very long time to write the book as I came up against a great many obstacles but I believed in what I was trying to say and kept at it. Now that the book is published and I have received enthusiastic and positive feedback I know that all the gruelling work was worth it to make the connections I have thus far.

Parting words
I hope as many people as possible will read The Prison Dance because I feel Palestinian freedom is central to the maintenance of worldwide peace in our time and that this memoir is more accessible than many books written regarding the Palestinian question. That is to say, the book includes stories of my own exploits and tales of an era (the end of the sixties) which, in retrospect, seem rather humorous. Because of this, many readers have told me that despite the profound nature of the book they found  The Prison Dance entertaining and intriguing as well as informative.




(Please click on article to embolden)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blue Christmas (a short story) by Leanne Dyck

I caught this story floating around in my head one morning. Perhaps caused by eating too much Christmas baking. But definitely not recommended for children.



Blue Christmas by Leanne Dyck


Some women go a little nuts when they've been rejected. And I guess that's what happened to me. But let me tell you he had it coming. I know you find that hard to believe. Just because he gives people things everyone thinks he's...um...er...he was prefect--but he was no saint. Not to me, at least. To me, he was just plain Nick. Yeah, he had his flaws. For one thing, he was a workaholic--him and all his little helpers. They spent endless days pounding away in that workshop of his. And he had this super-sized ego. 

Everyone was always, "Where's Saint Nicholas? Where's Santa Clause?"

And he just loved that. He  always pushed me to the back. I was left to feed the reindeer, repair the elves' clothing, make sure he was well rested. And who do you think dealt with all those screaming kids? Me. That's who. And I never complained--not once. 


Then... Then, every year, without fail, he'd come home, to me, late on Christmas day--his clothes all covered with ashes and soot. When I asked him where he'd been, how he'd gotten so dirty. He handed me some story about how he'd flown around the world--in one day. Yeah, like that's believable. But the kicker, the real kicker, was that he told me the reason his clothes were so dirty was that he slid down chimneys. Well, that was so ridiculous I almost laughed in his face. I mean you saw him. Do you think he could have fit in a chimney? With his gut, he would have gotten stuck. And I ask you, what's wrong with entering through the door--that's how everyone else does it.

Then she comes waltzing around with a plateful of those damn cookies. I don't know what she put in them but they were addictive--worse then any drug, especially to Nick. I was going to say something. I mean his cholesterol was already through the roof. But I told myself, it's Christmas, let him have his fun. And big, fat reindeer butt did he ever. I don't know what she saw him. She probably had Daddy issues.

Seeing him with her, seeing him kiss her, in front of everyone, under the mistletoe, that's what pushed me over the edge. That's why I did it. That's why I shot your Santa Clause.
***
Sharing my author journey...
I'd like to thank you for your support as this blog transforms from a knitting/writing blog to a writing blog. And, even though I was apprehensive to make this change (read this post to learn why this change was necessary), it's paying off. My writing pages are receiving a lot more page views--especially my 'media kit', 'work in progress' and 'written by Leanne Dyck' pages. This is golden because I interrupt it to mean that you are interest in getting to know who I am as an author. : )
***
Next post:  Interview with Jan Degrass

Friday, January 17, 2014

Author Katherine Carlson writes about Story Girl...

Update:  Story Girl will be free on Kindle from February 26 to 28. Go here for that.




The Story Girl burns to entertain. 
Yes.  Story Girl is slightly autobiographical, just like all the other stories I've penned.  But only slightly.
Tracy Johnston was incredibly fun to create; her perspective kept my jaw on the floor for most of the time.  She is deeply determined but equally insecure - an insecurity born of a history of rejection in the film biz.
Tracy is sharp and quirky, and possesses a biting, often self-deprecating sense of humour.  She is overstressed, confused, and prone to meltdown.  But her ambition to tell interesting stories keeps her on secure footing - no matter how much she may seem to sway.

Story Girl explores the dynamics of epic dualities: family vs. ambition; roles vs. individuality; and expectation vs. reality.  It's up to our flawed heroine to traverse such daunting chasms.  And we - the sacred audience - get to experience in her often wild attempts at trying to bridge those gaps.

Also written by Katherine Carlson...


I enjoyed watching Katherine Carlson's interview on The Luisa Marshall Show. You may enjoy watching it too.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reviewing Blessings by Julia Cameron


If you’re like me and suffer from the winter blahs, then Blessings:  Prayers and Declarations for a Heartful Life by Julia Cameron may help.
This book slipped into my life unexpectedly. I was scanning the book table at a church fair on Mane Island and its red cover caught my eye. Hmmm, Julia Cameron? Didn’t she write The Artists’ Way? I flipped the book open and sure enough my speculation was correct. Clearly this book deserves further exploration. I turned it over and read the blurb on the back cover…‘contains prayers and declarations that enable those who read them to rejoice with the knowledge that they are part of a larger whole that holds them in a benevolent and protective view. With lessons and observations on the nature of gratitude and the power to change, this book allows us to perceive the secrets of a bountiful existence, one that is intricate, priceless and insightful.’
Sold, I thought and bought the book.
Soon Blessings became part of my bedtime routine.
Each devotional is brief:  begins with a quote from a famous author—from Rumi to Leo Tolstay to Henry David Thoreau to Hildegard of Bingen to…—and concludes with a reflection related to the quote.
Blessings is a small book but it’s powerful. I wake with a seed of postivity firmly planted in my mind.
***
Sharing my author journey:  Last week was a lesson on remaining open to opportunities.

What do I mean?

Well, first my friend Laurie Buchanan directed me to her article for Gutsy Living. So I visited, voted for her and followed her advice to write my own gusty story. Will it be published and when? My fingers are crossed. I'll keep you posted...

Then I was inspired by Delia Latham request for Guest Posts. My article has been published on her blog (Write Right!

And last, but definitely not least, I received an email from The Malahat Review regarding the Word Thaw 2014 Second Annual Spring Symposium February 20 - 22. Visit their website for more news and seek peek 

***
Next post:  Interview with Author Janet Love Morrison

Friday, January 10, 2014

Interview with Author Janet Love Morrison


“In order to write about life first you must live it.”
Ernest Hemingway

Janet Love Morrison was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in Port Coquitlam, near Vancouver, BC. She spent a lot of her life travelling around the world doing a variety of jobs while living in Switzerland, Israel, India, Japan and Malaysia.

Travelling inspired Love Morrison to document was she felt, what she saw and what she heard. Her writing has appeared in the Pique Newsmagazine, which is published in Whistler, BC, one of Canada’s famed ski resorts, the Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s two national newspapers and several other publications.

“Refugees, children, taxi drivers, fellow travellers, work colleagues, family, friends, Dhyan Vimal, founder of Friends to Mankind, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and so many, many more remarkable people have been my teachers.

From the Himalayas, to the Alps; from the Andes to the Rocky Mountains; I have encountered this planet and I write to honour the courage of those who have met life challenges and rose to be the best they can be. They have sparked the belief in me that when we all rise to be the best we can be humanity will rise to be the best it can be.”

Love Morrison first started editing in 2004 for Masters’ World magazine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Since that tenure she has embraced a wide variety of editing assignments including: websites, brochures, resumes, magazine articles, real estate advertisements and so much more. Those creative experiences, combined with teaching English grammar as an ESL teacher for 11 years, are what make Love Morrison a well-rounded editor today.

In addition, Love Morrison is available for speaking engagements for she has appeared on television, radio and various other platforms to speak on different subject matters.

And finally, Love Morrison is an Ambassador for Friends to Mankind, an international non-profit foundation that works with individuals, corporation and philanthropic organizations towards the betterment of humanity.

“If your work is just work, then you haven’t found your work, but if your work is your life, then you have found your life.”
Dhyan Vimal, Founder, Friends to Mankind



How/why did you start to write?

From the Himalayas, to the Alps; from the Andes to the Rocky Mountains; I have encountered this planet and I write to honour the courage of those who have met life challenges and rose to be the best they can be. They have sparked the belief in me that when we all rise to be the best we can be humanity will rise to be the best it can be.

What was your first published piece?

My first article was published in The Whistler Question in 1992.
Sponsored by a local pizza parlour, the paper offered to publish travel stories in exchange for extra-large pizzas. The article was titled, Cabbie a Cultural Oasis at Border Crossing, and chronicled my journey across the Sinai Desert into the Gaza Strip in 1985. I was pretty excited about the pizza!

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I’ve spent many, many years outside of Canada and my intent has been to honour and celebrate people who have met their challenges, for I believe they inspire others to rise too.

What inspires you?

This quote:
“If your work is just work, then you haven’t found your work, but  if your work is your life, then you have found your life.” Dhyan Vimal, Founder, Friends to Mankind

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

For me, I try to always be conscious of my beliefs and intent before I write.

Parting words

What are you creating? What are you moving towards? What is the vision you are holding for your writing and yourself? What are you willing to do?



Radar the Rescue Dog
Author: Janet Love Morrison
Illustrator: Zuzana Riha Driediger
Foreword: Justin Trudeau

Released: October 2013
        Categories:   Juvenile Fiction, Animals Dogs
                                     Juvenile Fiction, Sports & Recreation
                                     Juvenile Fiction, Winter Sports
                                  
ISBN Numbers:
Paperback: 978-1-4602-2575-2
eBook: 978-1-4602-2576-9

Friesen Press, Inc.
Suite 300 – 852 Fort Street
Victoria, BC
V8W 1H8
CANADA

Tel: 1.888.378.6793
Email: publishing@friesenpress.com

Bookstore: http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000011498168

Radar the Rescue Dog is a fictitious children’s story based on a real dog. Three adventurous young skiers venture beyond the ski area boundary and find themselves lost on Whistler Mountain. Radar is their hero. It’s a simple plot to teach young skiers and snowboarders mountain safety awareness.

In 1978 Radar was Whistler’s first avalanche rescue dog. His home was Whistler and his owner was Bruce Watt, one of the original founders of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA).

The safety of mountain guests is critical in all ski areas. Much like we are taught about the hazards of water, electricity and fire, we must also teach young people about the fundamentals of mountain safety. This is the intent of Radar the Rescue Dog.

Justin Trudeau has written the foreword. His brother Michel was tragically killed in an avalanche in November 1998. Since then the Trudeau family has participated in mountain awareness.

Radar is endorsed by the Canadian Avalanche Foundation; the Canadian National Ski Patrol; the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association; Whistler Search and Rescue; and Dave Irwin and Steve Podborski of the famed Crazy Canucks.

 About the Illustrator:
Zuzana Riha Driediger lives in Revelstoke BC, and has been a member of CARDA since 1993. She currently sits on the board of directors for the organization and helps instruct rescue teams when required. She is presently training her third avalanche rescue dog who looks a lot like Radar.

For information about Janet Love Morrison's other books, please visit this site

Janet Love Morrison's video about her book Friends: Six Women, Six Cultures, One Humanity


Monday, January 6, 2014

Do authors journal?

Short answer:  Yes.

Long answer...
James Scott Bell wrote an article for the Writers' Digest website titled 5 Tools For Building Conflict in Your Novel. I found a lot of useful information in this article, such as...

'The best way to use a dream is sparsely (once per novel as a general rule) and then only to give a window into what the character is experiencing, emotionally, at the moment. It is a method to get us inside the character and show us just how the conflict is getting to her.' 

and

'Try working a background secret of some kind into your story with the end goal of heightening the conflict.'

and 

'Just continue to think trouble, trouble, trouble. Make it worse. Turn up the heat. That's conflict, your best friend as a writer.'

and

'I picked up one of the best ongoing writing tools for conflict from Sue Grafton. It's the novel journal. This is a document you keep, almost like a diary, jotting things in it every day before you begin to write.'

Now that last point, the one about the journal, that wasn't new to me. I've been keeping one of those for years. Every since, 2009, when I embarked on the journey of writing my first book-length manuscript. I keep a journal just like Sue Grafton. Well, to be honest, not just like Sue Grafton. Because I keep two. One that I write in before, during and after a major writing project. The other about the major writing project. This one holds bites of narration, dialogue, etc. 

Oh, yes, and I also keep a notebook in my purse so that I can write notes on the fly. And...um...of course I keep this blog--which is on-line journal. So, in some ways, I don't keep a journal--I bath in them. And, well, there's also that journal I keep to record writing advice I find on the internet. And there's...

'Right Brain, my creative part, really isn't interested in working line-by-line. Right Brain sees the whole picture. Left Brain might insist that we start at the beginning and proceed in an orderly fashion right through to the end, but Right Brain has its own way of going about its business. The journal is a place to honor Right Brain's ingenuity and non-conformity.' -writes Sue Grafton in The Completed Handbook of Novel Writing (p. 196)

Do other authors keep journals?

A quick search, using my favourite search engine, revealed...

[T]he habit of writing...for my own eyes only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments...I believe that during the past year I can trace some increase of ease in my professional writing which I attribute to my casual half hour after tea.' -Virginia Woolf

'Keepers of private notebooks are...lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.' -Joan Didion

'In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.' Franz Kafka

'The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather--in many cases--offers an alternative to it. -Susan Sontag

(Quotes found on:  http://flavorwire.com/367030/10-famous-authors-on-the-importance-of-keeping-a-journal/view-all/)

In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron offers Morning Papers as a way 'to retrieve your creativity' (p. 9)

And, in Stop Counting Sheep! an article published in Yarn Market News Magazine, Claire Lui wrote, 'If you're up at night worried about work, try old-fashioned journaling. Jot down your worries in a notebook (not a computer). It sounds simple, but a "worry journal" is an effective way to help clear your mind of a jam-packed to-do list as you attempt slumber.'

Here are two more articles that you may find interesting and helpful...

Keeping a Journal--10 Techniques to Help you in Keeping a Journal

5 Ways a Journal Can Make You More Productive

Let's give Sue Grafton the final word... 'Remember it's your journal and you can do it any way you choose.' -The Completed Handbook of Novel Writing (p. 199)


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Literature As An Oppositional Disorder by Ernest Hekkanen

For those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that I suffer from oppositional disorder. However, without that disorder, I would never have managed to become a writer, a small-time publisher and editor-in-chief of The New Orphic ReviewAnd I did it without government assistance.




Back in the mid-1960s, I got involved in two activities that came to define my life: I started to write and I became an anti-Vietnam War activist. However, those activities were symptomatic of a deeper oppositional disorder. During my ninth-grade year at Lynnwood Junior High, President Kennedy placed a blockade around Cuba. His address to the nation was broadcast over the school’s public address system. Afterward, my biology teacher said, “I’m sure everyone in this class will agree with what President Kennedy has done, except maybe Mike.” I went by my middle name, back then. The girl sitting at the desk immediately behind me said to her deskmate, “Why did Mr. McLeod say that?” to which her deskmate replied, “Because Mike’s last name is Russian.”
            When I shared that anecdote with my father, he got irate on my behalf. He told me about the Finns having been subjugated by the Russians for a hundred years, and later, in the Winter War, having fought them to a draw. That’s when I learned what it was to be someone of Finnish descent. I learned that Finns are a people who stand up for themselves, no matter the odds against them.
            As you can see, my oppositional disorder has historic dimensions.
            What does this have to do with literature in British Columbia? In 1969, when I arrived in Vancouver, B.C. as a draft dodger and published author, nationalism was raising its head and literature was struggling to find its Canadian legs. After eight months or so I came to realize I was someone who straddled a border. As long as I hid my American attitude and spelling faux pas, I was able to get published in Canadian literary magazines. But because I now had a Canadian address, I found it difficult to get published in American magazines. Later on, when I took an MFA at the University of British Columbia, my thesis advisor gave me the following advice: “If you expect to get Chasing After Carnivals published up here, you’ll have to change the location to a town in Canada.” Which I did. My novel was accepted by Stoddart Publishing in 1983. It got all the way to the bound galley proof stage, and was even reviewed in Quill & Quire, and then it was dropped from Stoddart’s list.
            No, the review wasn’t a bad one. It maintained that I was a writer with promise.
            Had I not had a strong oppositional disorder, I might have given up at that point. To date, I’ve had over 35 jobs in Canada, most of them working-class jobs. My second book, Journeys That Bring Us Here, employed many of my working-class experiences. I submitted it to over a dozen Canadian publishers. A B.C. publisher replied, “Unfortunately, your collection didn’t appeal to our readers. It’s full of losers, deadbeats, outcasts and drifters.” It sounds as though my characters might have suffered from oppositional disorder, doesn’t it? “Furthermore,” she went on, “there are very few women in your stories, and all of them are subjected to the whims of men.” The editor was obviously an educated woman who led a solid middle-class life, someone who had gone through university and now fancied herself an adjudicator of good taste. Another editor remarked: “Real people don’t act or speak the way your characters do. They’re all so illiterate, so determined to be stupid.”
            I suspect such editors haven’t been forced to experience anything outside their comfort zones. That’s typical of people in the book industry in Canada—whether we’re speaking in terms of writers, editors or publishers. After all, literature is a business. Who buys the bulk of fiction in Canada? Middle-class readers do, many of them women. To survive as a publisher one must appeal to the middle class, otherwise one is likely to go under financially, even with the support of the Canada Council and the B.C. Arts Council.
            I’m happy that I have a well-developed oppositional disorder. Without it, I might have given up the frivolous occupation of writing—and let’s not fool ourselves, writing is a frivolous occupation, especially here in Canada where Canadians buy far more books by writers from other countries.

            To date, I have published 45 Hekkanen titles and 30 issues of The New Orphic Review, which is now in its sixteenth year of publication. That is how I make my inconsiderable living. I decided to go it alone in the mid-1990s, and now there are five writers in my New Orphic stable. All of them have distinct voices not likely to be recognized by B.C. publishers.


Kafka:  The Master of Yesno
A Critical Study of the Writer and His Work
Of a Fire Beyond the Hills
a novel based on news stories
Heretic Hill
a novel

I chose my particular path because it allowed me to flourish as a writer who employs many different voices—in books that are unique in style and approach. My way of doing things has licensed me to be as creative as I can possibly be, in any genre I wish to tackle, without second-guessing whether I will find a publisher, because I invariably do. Writing has not only permitted me to make sense of this turbulent world, it has been my life preserver. I cling to it tenaciously, in opposition to the brutal times we live in and because I value something in myself that the larger society has little use for. As Albert Camus said in his treatise on revolt, I am “a man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation.”

Books available from New Orphic Publishers