The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘Brooke Warner

I’m taking a break from my weekly post to share this interview that rocked my world and is worth a listen. It is led by Brooke Warner, author and co-creator of SheWrites Press and Tayari Jones, NYT bestselling author. Brooke interviewed Tayari during the recent Bay Area Book Festival.

Jones gives an incredible interview that details what happens when the publishing world gives up on you and how she not only continued to believe in herself, as a writer, but also thrive. She talks about writing her recent novel, An American Marriage and how she created characters and a story line that challenge notions of what makes a marriage and relationship work. She also discusses why she used fiction to explore the inequities of the criminal justice system and class dynamics in the African American community. It’s a compelling interview because Brooke is a fantastic interviewer who poses substantive questions and Tayari brings warmth, honesty and humor in sharing her writing journey. I found out about this interview because it was posted through the Write-Minded podcast. If you don’t know about Write-Minded with Brooke (and co-host Grant Faulkner), check it out–they offer a great format (e.g. writing actions and “green light” moments), they interview a wide spectrum of authors and they also provide inspirational writing advice. Listen to the interview here.

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We all need encouragement and support for our writing lives. And, the beginning of the year invites us to try out new ideas. Here is a list of strategies that have bolstered my writing life.  May they support and inspire you.

1) Plan a Submission Party

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In my first writing group, more than fifteen years ago, I learned about the power of holding at least one ‘submission party’ during the year. A submission party meant that we planned a date and we all brought our polished manuscripts, manila envelopes, our bundle of SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes –yes, back in those days you had to send manuscripts via snail mail and with a SASE!), and food and drink to someone’s house. We helped each other write query letters, find new markets to submit work, develop submission charts, and triple check final copies of stories. And, the best part of all, we’d each leave with several stuffed packets ready to mail to magazine and anthology editors and contest judges.  These parties uplifted us and took the fear, dread and challenge out of submitting. And, they helped us get a batch of stories into the mail at one time.

At your next writers’ group meeting, suggest hosting a submission party during the first quarter of the year. And, if you’re not in a group (Well, you should be! When focused friendly people come together to support each other, they can produce incredible results!), then ask a writing buddy, if he or she would be interested in executing this idea on a smaller scale.

2) Practice Being a Writer in Publicdscn2986mcintyrereading31

Reading your work in front of an audience is an invaluable experience for a writer. We can see when people lean toward us, laugh (one hopes at the appropriate places), and get a sense of how our words affect others.  Readings help us to become comfortable with our work no matter what the reaction. We meet new friends and learn about the work of other writers. I did three readings last year (two of which I helped to create). In most places there are many opportunities to read your work in public—open mics organized by writing groups, in bookstores and cafes, writing conferences, and informal gatherings with friends.  Practice, practice and practice some more.

How many readings did you participate in during 2012? Shoot to double this number in 2013.

3) Volunteer to Support and Serve a Published Writer That You Know

I have been privileged to accompany one of my writing teachers, Marjorie Hudson, to several speaking events and workshops. I learned invaluable things watching a working writer deal with the public aspect of a writing life: speaking, promoting, coaching, and book signing.

Writers always need more support. If you have a friend or an acquaintance who has recently published a book, offer to help them promote it in some way. If you don’t know any published writers, this is a great way to connect with a local writer whose work that you admire.

Be a personal assistant, or driver, for a day. If they are scheduled to give readings, see if you can help carry books, set up a display, sell books, and assist with small tasks that would make their life easier. You can learn a lot from watching how other writers handle being in the public eye.

4) Strive for 99 Rejections

Years ago, Marjorie Hudson, shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should strive to gather at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been trying to get published I reached that number, no problem. Later, when I reviewed my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, in a serious and organized way.

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I love Chris Offutt’s essay, ‘The Eleventh Draft’, where he discusses how he dealt with the fear of rejection:

“The notion of submitting anything to a magazine filled me with terror. A stranger would read my precious words, judge them deficient, and reject them, which meant I was worthless. A poet friend was so astonished by my inaction that he shamed me into sending stories out. My goal, however, was not publication, which was still too scary a thought. My goal was a hundred rejections a year.

I mailed my stories in multiple submissions and waited eagerly for their return, which they promptly did. Each rejection brought me that much closer to my goal—a cause for celebration, rather than depression. Eventually disaster struck. The Coe Review published my first story in spring 1990. The magazine was in the small industrial town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a circulation that barely surpassed the city limits. The payment was one copy of the magazine, and the editor spelled my name wrong. Nevertheless, I felt valid in every way—I was no longer a hillbilly with a pencil full of dreams. I was a real live writer.”

The common suggestion is for writers to have at least five pieces submitted at any given time.

Are you close to 99 rejections? Every time you receive one, think of it as a step forward in your writing apprenticeship.  (BTW, holding a submissions party, regularly, can help you send out more material faster.)

5) Create Some Writing Affirmations

An affirmation is a short, simple, positive declarative phrase that as Eric Maisel says, in Coaching The Artist Within, “you say to yourself because you want to think a certain way…or because you want to aim yourself in a positive direction.” Writers can benefit from using affirmations as our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are often uninvited guests during our writing sessions.

A decade ago, I made a tape recording of me saying writing affirmations. I was living in California, on a post-doctoral fellowship, not a member of any writing group, and accumulating rejections at rate that made me gnash my teeth daily.  At that point in my life the inner critic often got the best of me. I needed something to remind me of my basic goodness, as a human being, and encourage me as a writer.

Listening back to them now, it’s clear that I don’t have that same inner wobbly feeling about claiming writing as a love, devotion, craft and profession.  Nor do I have the same fears. But those early affirmations (i.e. I am a writer!), spoken with conviction definitely built a bridge from there to here.

Writing, speaking and even recording affirmations creates a powerful state of mind. Here are some to get you started.

6) Commitment Publicly to a Writing Goal and Ask for Accountability

As a coach, I know that to make long lasting positive changes, we need structure and accountability. Over the past year, I’ve seen many writers use their virtual networks (as well as face to face ones) to get support in meeting an important writing goal. Editor, author advocate and She Writes publisher, Brooke Warner publicly announced her intention of finishing a book by a certain date. She also asked for support to help keep her accountable while writing and this request yielded wonders!

What’s one writing goal you’d consider announcing publicly and asking for accountability?

7) Buy a New Subscription to a Writing Magazine and/or Literary Journal

Where do you learn about the field of publishing? How do you find out about new writers? We do this in many ways, through blogs, friends, librarians and visits to bookstores. However, writing magazines and literary journals can also play a key role in our professional development. You’ve probably been thinking about treating yourself to new subscription to a writing magazine or literary journal for some time. Do it! When I finish this post, I’m off to subscribe to Poets and Writers.

Brooke Warner is on a mission to help authors become savvy at all stages of book development—from idea generation to publication. Brooke is a founder of Warner Coaching Inc., and the newly minted She Writes Press. She is a former Executive Editor of Seal Press (a groundbreaking press that publishes the diverse voices and interests of women).

I met Brooke through She Writes, an online community for aspiring and distinguished women writers. Brooke is a frequent contributor on She Writes and I quickly learned what most writers do about her. She’s thoughtful, honest, deliberative, positive and supportive (even when delivering challenging updates about the publishing world). And as an insider in the world of publishing, she brings a wealth of expertise to She Writes discussions.

When I discovered she was writing a book geared toward aspiring authors, I knew that I wanted to invite her to share her wisdom with this audience. I am grateful for all Brooke does to make the publishing world seem a little less mysterious and daunting to aspiring writers.

1) Tell us about your new book, What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author. What sparked your interest in writing this type of nonfiction book?

I have been working in the book publishing industry for the past thirteen years. I just left my position as Executive Editor of Seal Press in late April. I realized that I not only needed, but wanted, to experience firsthand what my authors were going through. I also felt I had some progressive, supportive, and optimistic things to say about publishing in this new era of publishing. My coaching is a blend of heavy-duty support, discipline, and honest critique, and I decided it was time to try to put down in writing some of the ideas and strategies I’ve been teaching aspiring writers since I started coaching in 2007. Also, publishing is changing so much all the time, and it’s changed drastically since I started in 2000. I think a lot of people are confused by the options, or don’t really understand how publishing works, so my book offers insight and good advice about approaching publishing in what I call this new publishing frontier.

 2) You made a public commitment to write your book by a certain date and asked your reading public to hold you accountable. How did making that commitment support you in the completion of the book?

 It was huge! The reason I did this at first was because I was going to be launching a class with my colleague, Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers, called “Write Your Memoir in Six Months.” We conceived of it late last year and I decided I wanted to give it a go, to see how hard it would be to write my own book in six months. As a coach, I know that at least half the value of what I offer is giving my writers accountability, so I knew I needed that too. Plus I wanted to give my clients and people I’m connected to through social media a chance to be engaged in my process. It was fantastic, and fantastically challenging! I’m really excited about our first memoir class, too, now that I’ve been through the six-month challenge and have a sense of what it takes to really do it.

 3) You’ve been an acquisitions editor and been in publishing for a long time. You’ve witnessed firsthand the dramatic changes sweeping across the industry. What’s one thing every aspiring author needs to know about the new publishing terrain?

The biggest and hardest thing to come to terms with is the importance of platform to industry professionals. This, in my opinion, has been the single biggest change (other than technology) that has happened during my time in book publishing. When I first started platform didn’t look like it does today, and in part technology is the reason. Writers are expected to have well-trafficked blogs and lots of followers on social media. In order to get a book deal, the marketing and publicity the author brings to the table, sometimes before the book is even complete, plays a big role. So I’m always reminding the writers I work with, as they’re toiling away on their projects, that they need to be tending to their platform. As an editor at Seal I rejected plenty of good projects from authors who didn’t have a platform, so it’s a really important component now of traditional publishing. On the other hand, I will say that self-publishing has never been more exciting or more accepted, so the upshot here is that while traditional publishing’s barriers are getting higher and more impenetrable all the time, self-publishing is looking more attractive and interesting with each passing month.

 4) Let’s imagine that you were hosting a magnificent dinner party and got to invite three well-known writers. Who would you choose and why?

First is Toni Morrison, hands down. I’ve read every book she’s written. She’s the single most influential writer in my life because she touched me at a really critical time in my intellectual development. I have to credit her for my love of good writing. I would choose Stephen King because I think he has a brilliant mind. I liked his books when I was younger, but I like that he’s a writer who thinks about writing and imparts his experience and wisdom to aspiring writers. Finally, I would invite Caroline Knapp (assuming we can suspend disbelief here and invite someone who’s no longer with us). I would invite her because I would want a memoirist in the group and for me she’s a memoirist who embodied the skills I’m trying to teach my memoirists. She was transparent, honest, vulnerable, and relatable. Her books are about her, but they are without fail about everywoman.

 5) Besides promoting your current book, what’s next for you?

The biggest thing on my plate right now is growing She Writes Press, my new self-publishing venture with SheWrites.com founder Kamy Wicoff. We launched the press at the end of June, on the third anniversary of She Writes. To date we’ve received 52 submissions and we have thirteen books in the production process for our pilot program. This has been a really exciting endeavor, and my own book is the first book to be published by She Writes Press. I will never stop supporting traditional publishing, but I have strong reasons for having wanted to self-publish, which I discuss in my book. So I’m thrilled to be partnering with Kamy in this way and to continue to support women writers, which was something that brought me a lot of fulfillment in my role at Seal Press as well.

 6) What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Tough question. There are a lot of tips depending on what a writer’s particular struggle is, but I think the number one tip is to be self-protective with your writing life. Sometimes this means guarding yourself against others and their feedback and opinions, whether you’re at the early stages or shopping your book. But sometimes this means guarding yourself against your own inner critics, the ones who tell you to give up, who makes excuses for why you should write later, who insist that it’s going to be embarrassing to have your work out in the world. Even doing a how-to book I found the inner critic to be a formidable foe! I had to find ways to work through that, and to allow the process to be fun and sacred and to not always feel like something scary or a burden. Writing opens you up in unimaginable ways, and when our hearts are open, they’re sometimes a little raw. So protect and persevere!

Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.

Find Brooke online:

www.warnercoaching.com

www.shewritespress.com

www.facebook.com/warnercoaching

twitter.com/brooke_warner

www.pinterest.com/warnercoaching

To purchase Brooke’s book: http://warnercoaching.com/order-wyb/

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193831400X/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=

(Photo credit Jen Molander Photography)

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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