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.
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!!!!