Posts tagged ‘Writing process’

 Another Hallelujah


Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017
Working on a novel is like having a newborn: it lets you know when something’s wrong and you can’t ignore that cry. When there’s a mess you change it and you forget to brush your teeth because personal hygiene falls by the wayside while you are in service of a new life. Read more…

The Gift of a Deadline


Hope 2016 is off to a great start for all of you. This post will shed light on the cryptic photo I posted New Year’s Day which simply read: ©2016. The box in the above photo was under the tree waiting for our daughter when she returned on Dec 24th from 4-month study abroad in Parma, Italy. Before she left in August she gave me 12/24 as the deadline for “finishing” my novel, Peach Seed Monkey . Inside the box: three perfect bound paperback editing copies of the book ~ made possible by a miracle called  The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) ~  an incredible tool for writers preparing for publication: on-demand printing while you wait!

At a Halloween party I met sisters Steph and Judy (dressed as a pirate and her parrot); the parrot told me about I Street Press at the Sacramento Central Library where they have an EBM. For a couple of print matter geeks like my graphic designer husband, Rob and me, this was big fun: I shot a close-up of a peach seed on a rust & teal piece of metal for the cover, which Rob designed. Then he formatted the manuscript in a PDF according to the EBM specs. We drove to Sacramento armed with 2 PDFs on a flash drive: one for the book block and one for the cover. Hats off to librarian printer Gerry Ward who worked the magic that produced our three warm copies.

The I Street Press EBM is encased in glass (maybe they all are?) so you can watch your paperback cover and book block come together right before your eyes. 5 minutes later a book pops out like a warm loaf of bread! This machine is a mishmash with a high speed Xerox copier on one end to print the book block, the EBM in the middle, an Epson color copier at the other end to print the cover —all run by a Mac. As Rob said, “I love that in the middle of this high tech machine is a messy glue pot.” And so it is. After a decade of words, drafts, edits (and still more to come) for these three preliminary drafts it came down to a bead of glue the EBM lays down on the spine to hold it all together. The glue—and a powerful guillotine making three cuts—is the difference between 300 sheets of paper and a book you can flip through, wrap and put under the tree.

When the words are all dressed up it makes a huge difference. A stack of 8.5″ x  11″ manuscript pages—Times Roman, messy with edits—versus a formatted draft—dressed in a Granjon font—is like wearing sweats versus a tux. A lot can hide under those sweats but when you put on a tailored, pressed tux it shows what kind of shape you’re in.

So…fellow writers: we work hard inside our processes so why not have some fun? When you’re at the “solid draft” phase, design a fun cover, imagine your story as a book then print a copy or two—see link below—you will feel very differently about those words and see things you would otherwise miss. Sure, you can use one of many online presses and wait 5-7 days but it’s way cooler to be part of the process and walk away with your book(s). But most importantly, to dress the words is to dress the characters and show them how much you believe in them.

Next step? My devoted husband and daughter are busy reading and marking up their copies. Then I’ll go back in ( yes…AGAIN) and produce the draft that I will send to my editor/coach for final (for real) edits. I read once that a writer said you’ll know when you’re finished because when you look at your book you’ll want to throw up. I’m almost there!

To all my blog followers I appreciate your support these past  years—and thank you, Miranda, for the deadline that generated this giant step. Now…enough is enough…you won’t hear anymore about this dang process until it’s time to order a copy…and may that happen before we make another trip around the sun…


Find an Espresso Book Machine near you ~

I Street Press in Sacramento:

Upcoming Reading ~ This Friday, Oct. 23 in Novato

Hello All…long time no see, but I’m back with good news: I’ll be reading from the homestretch draft of my novel, Peach Seed Monkey, this coming Friday here in Novato, CA.

I hope you locals can come out and join the Rant & Reverie to raise money for the renovation of Novato Theatre.

Update ~ Early last month I made a trip back to Albany for a family funeral and was able to work a lot on place and setting for the story; you really have to be there to nail it. Was introduced to an area of Albany I’d heard of but never visited: Cromartie Beach. I was so intrigued that I’ve written the location into the story ~ this is where my Altovise Benson buys her retirement beach house ~


OK…Click on the poster below for details about the reading this coming Friday…


The POTUS edits himself

Writers: wherever you are working away in your little secluded corner of the world, searching for just the right word, draft after draft, seeing President Obama’s Inaugural Address revisions will make you feel better. And remind us that it’s all about process. This photo was taken by White House photographer, Pete Souza: Read more…

Character Interviews (i.e.,talking to myself)

For years on my daily morning walks I carried small notebooks and a pen for ideas about stories, homeschooling, etc. Even though I obviously know the value of the spoken word, (being an oral tradition storyteller), for some reason I felt better about writing the notes. Until one day Read more…

Oh ~ So this is what a first draft feels like!

I promised to keep y’all updated on the progress of Peach Seed Monkey so here I am (finally) with a real update. Thanksgiving is two days away so I’m also here to give thanks ~ first to you for visiting/reading/subscribing to the PSM blog.

It’s been quiet the past couple of weeks for good reason ~ I  focused all available energy on finishing the first drafthallelujah! This comes at the end of a long, hard road: snatching time to write while motherhood and family life marched on—throughout the tail end of homeschooling and into the high school transition. Thank you Universe for the sanity to survive.

I’m often asked where the idea for the book started (and especially how the peach seed monkey made it’s way in) and much will be revealed by and by, but I will share this much now ~

The seed (really is the best word)  for the story was planted in September 2005 while my family and I were visiting Albany, Georgia for a family reunion. I went in search of an untold story and knew little about exactly what that would be—only that I wanted to tell a story about how black men of my father’s generation (he was born in 1921) in a place like southwest Georgia managed to be leaders in their homes and communities when the larger society did not see them that way at all. My dad passed away six years before I was pondering the question, but all my life he had shown me how that was done. Thank you, Silas.

Cousin Jessie on his property: Putney, Georgia, Sept. 2005

And I still had a very valuable resource: my cousin Jessie Jones (born in 1919) who lived right next to Albany in Putney. He and my dad grew up together and Jessie had a good memory. He passed away last year at age 91, but I have lots of audio interviews with details that serve the story well. Thank you Jessie.

A month ago I found out that my agent would be ready to read around the middle of November, so I set last Friday, November 18th as my deadline to wrap up the first draft. I thank my husband, Rob (a graphic designer used to deadlines) for making me set them.

Last Wednesday I was given a gift that made meeting the deadline possible ~ the use of a friend’s beach house for four days and nights in complete solitude. With the help of several pots of tea, chips, hummus and a huge jug of Superfood the 14-16 hour days yielded results. (Having the space and solitude to walk around reading the whole manuscript out loud made all the difference. ) It’s hard to thank my friend enough.

And now after a six year journey it feels almost unreal to have a first draft. This sudden,  post-partum freedom from the everyday demands of my fictional folk is VERY strange. So now I’m waiting to hear the thoughts of the agent who receives the last—but in no way the least—of my thanks.

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