Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It Takes a Village to Create a Writer

I'd like to think I'm a tiny part of Annette Dashofy's village. This woman is someone to watch, ladies and gentlemen. As her on-line critique partner, I'm often spellbound at her ingenious plots and writing. She's also been working on her nonfiction and short stories for years. But, I'll let her fill you in on that part of this blog. Please welcome Annette Dashofy.

Donnell asked me to write a blog about what I’ve done on the path to publication, which started me thinking. That path is long and treacherous, but the one thing I’ve learned over the years is that it doesn’t have to be lonely. It takes a village to create a writer.

I’m not sure of the exact date when I decided to get serious about writing for publication, which is a lot different than writing for friends and family. Those people will love you and tell you you’re great even when your prose sucks swamp water. I do, however, have vivid memories of the moment I learned it wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d envisioned. That moment was during my first real critique, offered by a few experienced mystery writers, a few of whom were multi-published. The truth stung, to put it lightly. But after a couple of weeks of pouting, weeping, and threatening to never let anyone read my work every again, I came to an epiphany.

They were right. My manuscript was hemorrhaging and I was trying to slap Band-Aids on it. So I tucked my “baby” into a box and slid it into a drawer never to see the light of day again.

And that was when I truly set out on that path by taking three important steps. 1.) I started an entire new manuscript and 2.) I signed up for an online mystery writing class. 3.) I joined a critique group.

The online class opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know about writing in general, but specifically about writing in my chosen genre. I completed that class and signed up for numerous other classes and workshops. I was a sponge, soaking up every morsel of advice I could get. I attended writer’s conferences and joined writing organizations, and that led me to volunteering.

I’d seen how writers help other writers, and I wanted to pay it back. And forward. I figured I didn’t yet have a publishing contract, and therefore wasn’t under deadline, so I’d make use of my freedom by accepting the role of area rep for Pennwriters http://www.pennwriters.org/prod/. It seemed like a small thing, but it put me out in the writing community, meeting other writers.

At some point, I discovered a wonderful source of entertainment known as author events. Book signings. We have a lovely independent book store nearby called Mystery Lovers Bookshop http://www.mysterylovers.com . They bring in big name authors on a regular basis. By attending these, not only did I experience writers talking about how they write and how they got to where they were (which just happened to be where I WANTED to be), but I had a chance to meet them face-to-face. Many have become dear friends.

I attended a talk by M.J. Rose, http://www.mjrose.com/content/author.asp who suggested that we join Yahoo groups who shared our interests, not just writing, but hobbies and pets. And not to push your writing agenda, but TO MAKE FRIENDS. That way, when you do have a book coming out, you have a bunch of people who know you as a friend, and they’re going to want to buy their friend’s new book. So I joined every Yahoo group I could find that matched my interests. Soon, I learned there were only so many hours in day, so I pared back a bit.

And, I kept writing. I wrote and rewrote my manuscript. I wrote and submitted short stories and nonfiction articles. And started collecting rejection slips.

But eventually, I made a few sales and placed several of the short stories.

Eventually, I landed an agent for my manuscript! Then one of those short stories was named a finalist for a 2007 Derringer Award. I was on a roll!

Well, not exactly. That path to publication has a few wicked turns and deep potholes in it. The manuscript didn’t sell and I parted company with the agent. Back to square one.

Except I was better armed. I finished a second and then a third novel. I wrote and submitted more short stories and articles. And when I fell into a pit of self pity, I reminded myself I had a Derringer nomination and I’d at least landed one agent, so my writing didn’t suck.

At some point along the way, I started creating an online presence. My Writing, etc. http://annettedashofy.blogspot.com blog is more for fun than for marketing. But when the day comes that I have a novel to promote, the blog is already set up and ready. I also helped create and remain a regular contributor to the Working Stiffs http://workingstiffs.blogspot.com blog. I had a friend of a friend, who happens to do web design, create a website for me. If someone (like an agent or an editor) wants to see what I write or learn who I am, all they have to do is go to www.annettedashofy.com. And, like the blog, it’s ready to shift into high gear when I have a novel to sell.

In the name of research, I’ve taken two different Citizen’s Police Academies. As a result, I’ve made some great contacts in the police department. And since two of my manuscripts are set in the world of Thoroughbred racing, I hang out at the racetrack quite a bit. A friend of mine who’s a trainer helped me get my groom’s license, so I can prowl the backside and experience that world whenever I want.

A couple of years ago, I jumped into Facebook and, more recently, Twitter. I see them as an extension of the old Yahoo group “making friends” idea. Someone asked me the other day if I really know all those big name authors I’m friends with on Facebook, or is it okay to “friend” someone you don’t really know? In some cases, I already knew them. In other cases, we’re strictly Facebook Friends. We share comments and communicate only through that network. But in many cases, I’ve met someone in person that I only knew previously through Facebook, and it’s like meeting an old friend…for the first time!

In case you’ve missed my theme here, while waiting to be published, I’ve made friends. Lots of friends. From my work as area rep for Pennwriters, to my time as their 2009 conference coordinator, to a year each as vice president and president of my local Sisters in Crime chapter, to my current status as Pennwriters vice president…it’s all been a blast. And what’s been even more fun is having these friends approach me now that one of my short stories is in Fish Tales: the Guppy Anthology http://www.mysterylovers.com/index.php?target=products&product_id=58684 and ask me to sign their copy. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

So far.

Are you part of a village? If you're pre-published or working your way to gain name recognition, how do you network to gain name recognition? We'd love to know. And for your trouble, Annette is giving away a copy of The Guppy Anthology, "Fish Tales," edited by Ramona DeFelice Long with an intro by Chris Roerden. The anthology includes 22 tales of murder and mayhem by the rising stars of mystery! We'll draw for a winner on June 10th. Be sure to leave an e-mail where we can find you. Happy Writing & Networking!

Annette Dashofy’s short story “A Murder Runs Through It” is included in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, available in trade paperback and all e-book formats. Her other short fiction has appeared online in Spinetingler Magazine and Mysterical-e Magazine and she’s a regular contributor to Pennsylvania Magazine. She currently resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband of 28 years and two very spoiled cats. Find more information about her as well as links to her fiction at www.annettedashofy.com.

Congratulations to Marilyn Levinson. You have won a copy of Fish Tales!!!!


Carol Silvis said...

It sounds like you are "busy" waiting for the call doing lots of things that will help you promote your book one day. Good advice!

Annette said...

Thanks, Carol. And thanks for stopping by! We have to do lunch one day soon.

Donnell said...

Good morning, Annette, and Carol. Carol, your book sounds fascinating. Job Hunting after 50, 101 Ways to Make Yourself Indispensable at Work. Wow, that's so needed right now! Thanks for stopping by.

Joyce said...

Hi Annette! Hi Donnell! I can definitely vouch for the fact that Annette is a fantastic writer. It's only a matter of time before that book contract comes about.

Annette said...

Thanks for having me here, Donnell! And btw, Carol is our Pennwriters president.

Thanks, Joyce. The feeling is mutual. You're going to be sitting right next to me at one of those book signings.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Hi Annette and Donnell! As crazy busy as all of this looping and blogging and volunteering and Facebooking and Tweeting makes one, you make it sound easy. I need to spend some quality time with you to figure out how you get it all done and still find time to write. :) This is excellent advice. I guess it just takes practice. I have an idea your call is coming soon. :)

Annette said...

Hi, Susan! It's mostly about balance, although I confess I sometimes struggle with that juggling act. Ideally, I set a time limit on the social networking. When my time's up, I have to get to work.

My new hero is Jonathan Maberry, who really does it all. He writes for 50 minutes out of each hour and then does social networking for 10 minutes. Me? I tend to use those 10 minutes to throw a load of laundry in the wash and use the restroom!

Donnell said...

I see a some people on their way up here. I don't rub Susan Boyer's head for nothing! Joyce, your work is fabulously funny. Annette's always has me gasping for... where the heck did she come up with that. She draws a lot from her own experience, and then she turns it in the most chilling and compelling ways. I think her middle name is "Page Turner."

Donnell said...
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Liz Lipperman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz Lipperman said...

Had a few typos on that last post and deleted.)

Great advice, Annette. Author promotion these days is a lot different from way back when...or so, I'm told. Most of it lands on the author's back..that same author, who is madly trying to get another book written and have a life away from the computer. So, your making friends is spot on. I've found writers to be generous with their time and advice.

Donnell said...

To the marvelous Liz Lipperman, the great thing about being an owner of this blog, I get to see the comment you deleted. Hey, typos/schmipos. If you do get out to Pittsburg for a signing in October, do check out Mystery Lovers Bookshop. I loved the personal attention they gave this Colorado girl in getting Annette's book.

Annette said...

Hi, Liz. Yes, do make sure to visit Mystery Lovers Bookshop. They're the best!

More and more I'm convinced that you need to have all this online stuff set up before you need it. Because by the time you have a book coming out, you're too frazzled by everything else to try to learn how to Twitter. Just ask Donnell. ;-)

If you have your website and your blog and your Facebook friends all set before the book, you only need to kick it up a notch instead of starting from scratch. Plus we're not on deadline...YET. So we do have a little time to tinker that might not be there later.

Liz Lipperman said...

Ah, Donnell, nothing gets past you!!

Hey, maybe you can fly out to Pittsburgh and sign with me...and you, too, Annette.

I grew up near the Wheeling, West Virginia area. That's why I'll be out that way. My agent lives in WVA also, so she's encouraging me to go to Pittsburgh while I'm in town.

Anyway, Annette, I thought I would add that a few months ago, my editor at Berkley emailed me and strongly "advised" me to get an author Facebook page. I would pass this on to all authors out there as a "pre" published checklist kind of thing.

Donnell said...

Who's frazzled? Oh, yeah, me! That's why I'm hanging on all the threads here. Liz, we'll talk. That signing is not out of the realm of possibility. I would love to go meet the Pennwriters up close and personal. They are one of the best groups around.

Annette said...

Liz, I do have an author page on Facebook, but only about 8 people who "like" it. It's another thing that's there and ready for when I need it.

Yes, PLEASE come to Pittsburgh! Both of you! I'll be first in line with my books to be signed!

Marilyn Levinson said...

It sure takes a village and then some. I have a new ebook out and discover I'm promoting like crazy.
Good luck to you!

Donnell said...

Marilyn, congratulations! Give us a blurb here, and then tell us what you're doing to promote it.

That goes for all of you, if you have a *small* blurb, I'd love to hear it.

Kaye George said...

Thanks for taking us down your long and winding road, Annette. What a journey! I agree, some of my best friends are online, and I LOVE meeting them in person.

Cheryl Elaine Williams said...

Great article, Annette. Lots of words of wisdom.

Annette said...

Kaye, have you ever been approached by someone who knows who you are, but you have no clue who they are? I have, because of my Facebook photo. Some of us look more like our pictures than others, I guess, because I don't always recognize my online friends in person. Then I find out who it is and we have this big old hug and squeal "reunion."

Hey, Cheryl, thanks for stopping by! Cheryl is one of my face-to-face critique buddies.

Jean said...

Thanks for all the positive advice. Your enthusiasm shows in your writing. I'm still waiting, but will have to jump into a website. I am on Twitter and tweet only once a year but seem to have followers despite my meager words...lol.
As for Pittsburgh! Eow, I moved from NE Ohio a few years ago. I love Pittsburgh and wish I'd known about the Mystery Book Store. I'll be sure and drop in the next time I'm up that way.
Thanks for all the good advice.
[3 x President of 2 different RWA chapters,
VP of an RWA Ohio chapter, and National conf volunteer] Time to retire a bit :)

Laurie Wood said...

Thank you for the details on your publishing journey, Annette! I'm also busy writing newspaper articles, short stories, and generally getting back in gear after a couple years hiatus while I had my right shoulder replaced. I think it does take "a village" to create a writer - writers tolling away in a freezing garrett only existed (if they ever did!) in the 19th century. Good luck!

Annette said...

Jean, one of the great things about Twitter is the number of agents and editors who are on there. If you start following them it's like being a fly on the wall to some of their conversations. And a little inside information is always a good thing.

Laurie, glad to know you're recovering from that surgery. Ouch! As for the old days of sitting in solitary confinement to write, think of how many of those authors were driven to drink! The support system of the social networks is priceless.

Ellis Vidler said...

Annette, you're so right about making friends. That's what keeps all this from being drudgery. I've met such great people, many who've helped me find my own way. Nice post and a good path to follow.

Annette said...

Thanks, Ellis.