Jan 23
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How I Asked for the Going Rate

I was surfing on the web one day-- in the merry merry month of June-- and came across this website, based in the UK:

http://www.infinn.com/subliminal.html

Here one can download, for a 30-day trial, a subliminal messages software program. It flashes messages on the computer screen for two milliseconds -- and these messages are positive, and you can select from pre-loaded messages, or create your own.

Subliminal messages, although you can't really read them, are supposed to be a painless way to imprint the mind, to change thought patterns and behavior. I said, I will try it.

The pre-loaded categories include losing weight, quitting smoking, winning athletic contests, making friends, and so on. I loaded the messages for Self-Esteem, Prosperity, and Success, and also made up my own category, Writing. Each of these categories is stocked with affirmations, which are nothing but wishes put into words. Some affirmations I put in my Writing category are "People tell me my writing is wonderful," "I am well paid for what I write," "I write poems easily and abundantly." Then I started the program. This was five days ago. Honestly, I think it's working.

For example, I was asked to quote a price on an editing job. I asked for the amount I wanted, the going rate: $75 an hour. Normally I lowball it, because it seems like a great deal of money to me, I certainly couldn't afford it, and because one person acted shocked when I had the nerve to ask for that much on a previous occasion. Where did I learn that writers and money don't mix? And what's more, why did I believe that?

I haven't heard the answer yet, but I have this odd sensation of "I'm going to stand firm on this." It's a good sensation!

I do notice when the affirmations flash on the screen -- but can't read them, except very occasionally and from my peripheral vision.

If you stare at your computer screen a lot, and think you could benefit, try it free for 30 days. I have noticed no harmful effects. And if I don't get the editing job -- I can use that time for my own writing. Win-win!
Jan 23
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Don't Enter Contests, But If You Do....

To become a confident writer, don't enter writing contests, especially those that charge a fee. Your odds of winning are between 1 in 600 and 1 in 1200. If you like gambling, take that money and bet on a horse.

Where did I get those numbers? From editors who run writing contests for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, flash fiction, first books, and chapbooks.

Confident writers don't need to enter contests to prove themselves or impress other people. Save your time for improving your writing, maybe trying something new. Save your money for something you know you can get, like a better computer. Even if you did win, there are so many contests that no individual prize is worth much. The only prizes really worth having are those people nominate you for, and they nominate on the basis of good writing.

But, if you must discourage and hurt yourself by entering a "contest," here's some inside information if you want to almost win:

Poems: For local and regional contests, send poems about trees and flowers, and the seasons; if you have a "snow globe"poem or a patriotic poem, you might place. For a contest run by a literary journal, send a poem that berates yourself for living in North America while the rest of the world suffers.

Short fiction: Send stories about the lives of middle-class white professionals, particularly writers, editors, or teachers, and their relationships and sexual problems; be sure to mention their yoga class.

Flash fiction: The overall message of your flash fiction should be that "life is degrading" and the tone should be rueful. A little girl should appear as a character.

Essays: Use an exotic locale. Africa and Asia are preferred.

The above tips may double your chances, to about 1 in 300 and 1 in 600. Sound like odds you can handle?

For writers who believe they are above the odds, and entitled to win a prize because they have published or have an M.F.A.:

Things that Contest Judges Hate Right Now: Anything Midwestern; humorous or satirical poetry; work with a feminist outlook; fiction or essays about the blue-collar world or working women; anything that hints that digital technology is good; lesbians.
Jan 22
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On Last-Minute Revisions and Touchups

Once in a while, after a tiring day, as a sort of nightcap I might pluck from the shelf one of my books and page through, and soon it all comes back: the joy and stress involved in the book’s creation and completion; the tussle with the universe to extract from it a fitting title; the stories behind word choices, stories only I will ever know; the people who freely gave me their most fragile possession: their trust. My thoughts might run:  “That thought was inspired and it reads like it,” or I hunt for flaws. “That middle initial should be G, not J; how did I not catch it?” “Shouldn’t have tinkered with that." Last-minute rewrites of my work, even half a sentence, feel and look to me like crudely sewn knee patches on jeans. Musician Les Paul said after a recording session, “Leave the mistakes in there; let them know we’re human.” That’s a great concept, especially when paired with Miles Davis saying about his art, “Don’t worry about mistakes. There are none."

Jan 20
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If I'd Known I Was Going to Live This Long...

Doc looking at MRIs of my spine said, Do you over-sit?

I once had the Romantic notion that I wouldn't live beyond my thirties, but I did, go figure, and accumulating hours upon hours, year after yeachairr in a chair, as writers do, ultimately wrecks your spine. Doesn't matter if you sit straight or on an expensive task chair or a medicine ball; bodies weren't made to sit for hours. Ergonomic gear is designed to make workers more productive, not healthier. And spinal degeneration doesn't go away. I've taken to spending half my writing day standing up, my computer on the dishwasher top. It's just the right height.

Seeking prevention advice (my favorite here), I find unanimous agreement on this: Get up and move, hourly. Stretching arms upward and back while still seated is ineffective; you must rise from the chair and move, or at least touch your toes. I know it sounds like a pain to get up every hour, but just as you wouldn't smoke because it's bad for you, or read in poor light, you wouldn't want to oversit. I know how it is when we're on deadline or pursuing a big inspiration.  But be aware. "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself." - Eubie Blake
Jan 19
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Small-Press Editors Tell All, Feb. 11th

Small and/or independent presses are THE way for the un-agented writer to get published. The last four authors I edited all published their books with small presses, and others I didn't edit got their first books published by small presses also (smart enough to know they hadn't a prayer with the big ones). So have a prayer. Find out what small presses look for when three small-press editors discuss this very question at the University of Missouri-St. Louis on Friday, February 11, at 6:00 p.m., in Lucas Hall 200. The UMSL MFA Program presents a panel of publishers from independent presses specializing in books of literary fiction and poetry. Alex Schwartz from Switch Grass, Ben Furnish from BkMk, and Jon Tribble from Crab Orchard will discuss and answer questions about what they look for in manuscripts, how to submit, what to expect, and more. Free and open to the public. Call (314) 516-6845 for more information.

I urge all writers in these changing times to continually update their knowledge about publishing, especially from firsthand sources such as these editors. Take advantage of a great privilege that will cost you nothing.
Jan 18
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What Poetry Was Meant to Do

From Wikipedia. I got a genuine thrill reading this, and hope you do too:

When the book was first published, Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior after Secretary of the Interior James Harlan read it and said he found it very offensive.Poet John Greenleaf Whittier was said to have thrown his 1855 edition into the fire.Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote, "It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote 'Leaves of Grass,' only that he did not burn it afterwards." Critic Rufus Wilmot Griswold reviewed Leaves of Grass in the November 10, 1855, issue of The Criterion, calling it "a mass of stupid filth" and categorized its author as a filthy free lover. Griswold also suggested, in Latin, that Whitman was guilty of "that horrible sin not to be mentioned among Christians", one of the earliest public accusations of Whitman's homosexuality. Griswold's intensely negative review almost caused the publication of the second edition to be suspended.Whitman included the full review, including the innuendo, in a later edition of Leaves of Grass.

On March 1, 1882, Boston district attorney Oliver Stevens wrote to Whitman's publisher, James R. Osgood, that Leaves of Grass constituted "obscene literature". Urged by the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice . . .Stevens demanded the removal of the poems "A Woman Waits for Me" and "To a Common Prostitute", as well as changes to "Song of Myself", "From Pent-Up Aching Rivers", "I Sing the Body Electric", "Spontaneous Me", "Native Moments", "The Dalliance of the Eagles", "By Blue Ontario’s Shore", "Unfolded Out of the Folds", "The Sleepers", and "Faces"
.

P.S. Whitman's title Leaves of Grass was a veiled way of saying "this is trash written by a hack or unimportant person."
Jan 16
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Before It's Perfect

Wednesday night, Bob Baker, author of Guerilla Music Marketing and a self-published, self-supporting full-time writer, listed for his audience the 12 most important lessons he has learned along the way. Inspired, I acted on two of them:

  • “Take some small action now.”
  • “Don’t let imperfection stop you. ‘Out there’ and imperfect is better than ‘perfect’ and ‘not out yet’.”

Right after his talk someone requested my BookEval business card and I was chagrined to have none. Taking action, last night I tried designing the perfect business card and repeatedly failed, using up half the night. “What I will have to do, come Monday,” I wearily thought, “is find some printer who makes really nice business cards, maybe by calling some people who will recommend one, and then put the logo on a disk, and make a drawing of what I want, and then go there and choose card stock, ask how much it will cost and pay it. This will freakin’ take weeks, I can’t do business for weeks. . .” Went to bed at 1:00. Did not sleep until 3:40. That’s because I’d taken a good idea and turned it into a real crazy-maker.

This morning I made a freakin’ imperfect business card and sent it to be printed in an edition of 250 to use until I can get the “perfect” card. I think I chose well. (People are starving and I am concerned about a ‘perfect’ bizcard?!?!?)



Jan 14
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Sneaky Self-Promotion for Idiot Authors

Dying to get their books into bookstores, or sell bookstore stock, authors actually do these things:
  1. Artificial Insemination: After printing colorful card-stock promotional bookmarks featuring the title and purchase information for one’s own book, an author sticks these bookmarks into store copies of bestsellers.
  1. Disturbing the Universe: A writer in a bookstore surreptitiously moves her books closer to the front, or turns them from spine-out to face-out, or re-distributes the bookstore’s stock of her book among several subjects or shelves. She doesn’t realize that the bookstore is a business, that she is not the first writer to do this, and that the bookstore clerks know the shelves as they know their own faces; after all, they have arranged the books, often to specifications given and paid for by the publishers. It is their job eight hours a day to maintain this order.
  1. The Secret Book Signing: A writer enters a bookstore, finds his own books and secretly autographs all the copies, knowing that autographed books are considered defaced and cannot be returned to the publisher, and hoping this will force the bookstore to keep all copies on the shelves until they are sold.
  1. The James Frey Awards: A writer has golden medallion-type stickers printed with the name of a fictitious award, enters the bookstore and sticks them onto his book covers hoping this will attract attention.

Not yet dead of embarrassment and shame? Pretend you are not the author, and sell a copy of your book to every used-book dealer in town. At least it’ll be shelved in a bookstore. (A tip found online.)

Jan 05
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Honesty is Such a Jobless Word

Job interview #1: I meet the exhausted bottle-blond interviewer in late afternoon. Staff had all fled their cubicles at 4:00 p.m. thanks to flextime; the place was tomb-like. "Nice office," I lied, starting an exchange of lies that lasted an hour: she pretended to interview me and I pretended to want the job.

Job interview #2: The hiring committee had a projector so candidates could present audiovisual portfolios on DVD. They asked if I had one. I saw I was sunk. Inspired, I said, "I'll be honest with you. I'm a writer.  I just published my fourth book," etc. I'm gleeful, and a lively discussion ensues. Finally they ask how I feel about coordinating public-relations functions all day and attending said functions all evening. I tell them that I would hate that.

Welcome to the SanityBubble blog, successor to the Mental Health for Writers blog. I'll be moving all of its entries over here. BookEval.com is now my online home and website, and I am my own darned employer and can be honest with you.
Dec 08
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Ideal Writing Space: Lynn's

back-yard-obermoeller_bookevalBeautiful! From Lynn Obermoeller, who says: "Here's a picture of my back yard - if I sit out on the deck (which you can see in the upper left corner), I can hear the waterfalls from our ponds and see this tiny botanical garden, that I created myself (okay, well landscapers actually put the ponds in, but I did all the planting - okay, 85% of the planting. The other 15% between my sister and husband and nature itself). Norm (husband) took the picture."

Dec 02
Written by

Blog Will Resume Around January 1

website_design_webolution9_bookevalDear Readers:

A new catherinerankovic.com website is being built and, good news for anyone who missed it, this blog will be restarted around January 1. I am having it designed by a team in Santa Monica which intends to surprise me. See you soon,

Catherine

Sep 30
Written by

The Beginning

gpgirls3The story of this picture: These are the Guilty Pleasures authors, the Doves, my writing group from 2000 to 2007. We got a book accepted in 2002 and published in spring 2003. In August of 2002 we had a group author photo taken. We fooled around with all sorts of different "guilty pleasures" props (tiaras, etc.) and were inexperienced enough to choose as our jacket photo a more serious one than this, but this remains my favorite. The original is indeed in black and white -- remember, I think all book-jacket photos should be black and white! Left to right: Patti Smith Jackson, Jane Holwerda, me, Cathy Luh, Holly Silva, Karen Hammer, Sue Caba and Laurie Vincent.

Thank you for having read this blog over the past three and a half years. This is the final post. Every visit you made, every comment, has been an honor for me. These days there's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, e-Books, multiple jobs (no one has only one job anymore) and so much more to fragment our time and attention. I'm freeing up more writing and publishing time for you and for me. Remember, be confident, and take care of yourself, because....

. . .you are fate's finest instrument.