Interview with author Lisa Winkler – editor of Tangerine Tango

In addition to writing a regular blog, Lisa Winkler is the author of On the Trail of the Ancestors, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America.  She’s also the editor of a new anthology of writing by women called Tangerine Tango (yes, of course I’m in it!) and I was impressed with the energy and dedication she brought to putting the project together, so I asked her about it.

GC: Congratulations on publishing Tangerine Tango. Is this the first book you’ve produced?

LW: Thanks, Gabi! I’m so proud of the book. This is my second book.  On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America was published last February. That is a very different book than Tangerine Tango. It tells the journey of a teacher I met from Newark, NJ who rode his horse from New York to California to honor the contributions of African-Americans to US history.

Tangerine Tango is a collection of essays and poems by 12 women writers.

GC: Tell me something about how you found your authors.

LW: Most of the writers I have befriended through blogging and I asked them to contribute.  By reading and commenting on each others’ blogs I feel as if I have all these wonderful friends!

GC: The book is attractive looking. Did you design it yourself, or did you have help?

LW: I had help. I am so lucky to have met Solveig Marina Bang. She is a designer and copy editor, based in India, who turns my word documents into art!  We go back and forth debating grammar as well as design.  She created 9 covers for me to select from—I loved this one immediately.

GC: Which parts of the publishing process did you handle yourself? (ISBN numbers, editing, etc)

LW: I have self-published with CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing company. They assign the ISBN. I edited the essays and shared the edits with the writers. Then Marina and I pored through the entire document scores of times, and the writers proofread it too. I think there were over 20 drafts before it was ready to submit for publication.

GC: Was publishing the book pretty straightforward?

LW: Well the paperback was unavailable for a few days because of some glitch between Amazon and CreateSpace. In order to solve the formatting problems I had to wait for them to fix the issues with the Amazon paper copies. People who ordered from CreateSpace directly weren’t affected, but it was a nuisance from a promotional point of view. On the bright side, while it was unavailable, Amazon was advertising used copies for $999!

GC: Is the problem cleared up now?

LW: Yes, thankfully, and it’s been selling well.

GC: What piece of advice would you give to other indie authors looking to publish?

LW: It’s a risk and investment. There are tons of paper books being published both traditionally and self-published. Then there are eBooks. There’s a lot of competition. Don’t expect to make fast money. There’s no guarantee even if you’re traditionally published.
GC: Would you be prepared to do it again? Is volume 2 in the works, for example, or do you have something different on the horizon?

 

LW: I’d love to do this again! It would be another title; maybe with themes, maybe not. I’d love to double the size of the book and the number of authors. I think I’ll wait at least a year though to see how this one does, and if I do another book, I want to research other companies.

Working with an editor: re-post from Dana Sitar

 

A young blogger, Dana Sitar, whom I follow write a recent post on a subject dear to my heart: editors and how to handle them. I’m a complete believer in editors, and would almost never publish anything without one. My blog posts are the exception (maybe you can tell?).  The snag comes when you’re freelancing. I’ve had my share of editors who insist on an ungrammatical ‘improvement’ to my writing, or who’ve changed the sense of what I was trying to convey by their edits. Dana asks the question: When should you confront, and how? Do read her piece and then I’d love to hear your ideas for how you handle this.

Working with an Editor

A few months ago, I found myself in a frustrating situation with an editor for a freelance assignment. I loved the assignments I was getting, and he gave glowing reviews and useful feedback on the work I was turning in. But sometimes the edits I saw in the final published work were… questionable. I’m no Yes-Man when it comes to work, but I also try to pick my battles, and I couldn’t decide whether challenging his edits was one worth engaging.

When should you question an Editor?

He’s got the reputation of his publication to maintain, so he makes the changes that fit the image he’s worked hard to cultivate. I’ve got my reputation as a writer to maintain, so I worry about the integrity of every article published with my name on it. So how do we reconcile disagreements?

Usually, I just bow my head and bite my tongue. Read the rest here

 

Mslexia – a magazine for women who write

I’m not sure where I came across Mslexia, but I’m very glad I did. It’s an online and paper quarterly magazine for women who write (but I don’t suppose they object if men care to read it too). They’re based in the UK, but their readership is global. Whether you’re published or not, there’s something here for you.

Among the many reasons I found them intriguing is that in addition to interesting and useful articles by other writers, Mslexia provides many chances for new writers to be published. They run high-profile contests for poets, novelists and short-story writers.  Among the articles in the current (Summer 2012 issue) are a request for submissions to a women’s short story competition, an investigation into the lack of new gay women novelists, and an article on how to be a great reviewer. This last one interested me because I always feel my book reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are woefully lacking in analytical brilliance. Not only do they tell you how to write a good review, they then say they’re looking for good reviewers, so there’s a chance to actually use your new skill.

Another article was about what it takes to become a professional proof-reader/copy editor.  Here’s what one of the editors they interviewed thought was important:

‘Prerequisites for the job? A fanaticism about perfection, an excellent knowledge of the relevant language and grammar, patience to work with the same material for hours on end and willingness to set aside your own creativity and voice to work on someone else’s.’
CLAIRE ELLIOT, freelance editor

They also list events and workshops for writers. Here are a few of the current ones:

A writing and yoga retreat in a beautiful old slate cottage just a mile from the sea in south Cornwall. 26-31 August.

A writing retreat on the beautiful wild island of Tanera Mòr, Summer Isles, North West Scotland, led by poet and novelist Mandy Haggith. 1-7 September 2012.

FictionFire offers creative writing day courses, mentoring, critiquing and editorial advice with novelist and experienced writing tutor Lorna Fergusson in Oxford.

Residential Courses at Ty Newydd Writers’ centre, Wales, include Creative Nonfiction with Horatio Clare (the writer-in-residence I wrote about) and Helena Drysdale (13-18 Aug); The Short Story with Patrick Gale and Salley Vickers (20-25 Aug); Storytelling Retreat with Hugo Lupton and Eric Maddern (24-29 Sep).

Skyros Writers’ Lab on the island of Skyros in Greece offers creative writing courses in Greece for writers, thinkers and dabblers including: The First Novel with Shelley Weiner (11-21 Aug, £995); Life Writing with Monique Roffey (21-31 Aug, £945); A Life Full of Stories with Amanda Smyth (1-11 Sep, £895); Your Writer’s Voice with Crysse Morrison (11-21 Sep, £845).

Almàssera Vellain Alicante, Spain offers low season retreats in their casa rural annexe as well as residential writing courses. 2012 tutors include: Jane Draycott, Mimi Khalvati, Judith Barrington, Mario Petrucci, Jo Shapcott, Nancy Shapiro, Simon Barron & Rosalind Brady, Christopher North and John Hartley Williams.

I think they’re worth a second look, and even a subscription, which I’ve just taken out.

Killing Your Darlings: a Guest Post from Sue Healy

Sue Healy

Sue Healy is an Irish whirlwind. You’ve only got to check her bio on her blog (http://suehealy.org/) to see that.  She’s an award-winning writer, tutor, poet and journalist. She’s lived in Budapest and the UK (where she got her MFA) and teaches creative writing in English prisons. She’s also a Creative Writing tutor with the Open University (a British online University that started on TV in the 1970’s – very advanced thinking for us staid Brits!)  teaches for an independent online service, and in her spare time and leisure moments runs creative writing workshops in Ireland, France and Hungary.

Oh, did I mention that she’s  reworking a draft of her novel and putting together a collection of short stories? Don’t be intimidated – she’s friendly and has some great free advice for you. Here it is:

The Importance of Editing

‘Murder’ or ‘Kill your darlings’ is an adage attributed to the literary critic Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, advising writers to cut the words / phrases to which they are most attached, in order to strengthen the work. It is good advice when editing, as often we writers shoehorn in a delicious description which doesn’t do an enormous amount for the piece as a whole. It is simply a bauble. Time to get the gun out.

Editing makes the job of writer a rather schizophrenic affair where one has to don two very different caps. The first cap is that of the creative -who is focused on the big picture and is not too worried about the details. This is the person who comes up with the story, the theme, the basic structure, the person who invents characters and decides on the tone. This artist-writer will draw up the first draft of the story, writing only to please themselves. Finishing a draft wearing this cap is only some of the journey, however…

Next comes the cap of editor-writer. This is when the writer combs through the text, ruthlessly chopping, restructuring and cutting unnecessary/ unsuitable words, characters, scenes, phrases etc… or ‘murdering your darlings’. This is the writer preparing the text for other people. It is a good idea to leave a few weeks between your artist and editor incarnations.

Editing can be painful, and time-consuming. You’ve quite likely become attached to some characters, scenes, words and phrases and are loath to see them go. Don’t worry, you can store them in your “writer’s bag” for use at a future time in a more suitable context. In the meantime, get pruning…

Chopping advice:

Cut all surplus adjectives and adverbs.

Examine the phrases you’ve shoehorned in just because you liked the sound of them – do they really fit that scene? Be honest. If not, bin them.

Take out all vague words such as “seem/seemingly” and try to do without your “justs”.

Look at all sentences that run for two or three lines. Do they really need to be that long? Can you reduce them or break them up? If you can, do so.

Active forms are better than passive forms, where possible (i.e. “John cleaned the flat” rather than, “the flat was cleaned by John”).

Finally, every writer on Earth needs a reader or two – fresh eyeballs to run over your work and give you honest feedback. I suggest using three friends whom you trust will be frank with you. You don’t have to take everything they say on board. Do consider what they say, however, and if all three come back and say a character is not working. The character is not working. Rewrite.