“I Remember”

This writing warm-up is adapted from Joe Brainard’s “I Remember.” (Granary Books 2001).

A few excerpts from this author’s book are:

  • I remember how much I used to stutter.
  • I remember Aunt Cleora who lived in Hollywood. Every year for Christmas, she sent my brother and me a joint present of one book.
  • I remember shower curtains with angel fish on them.
  • I remember one very hot summer day I put ice cubes in my aquarium and all the fish died.

Details from our memories often evoke more than mere facts. Reading that his fish died, I felt sad for those fish and sad for this author as a little boy. I feel he wanted to do good only for it to be the wrong thing to do. I want to know more about these fish. How long did he have them? What color where these fish? Were they goldfish?

From this list of “I remember” choose one.

  • Focus on details of these memories while recalling them.
  • Describe what is happening.
  • Show feelings during the unfolding event.
  • Was there any reaction to the event?

The “I remember” is a way to dig into the experience. We don’t want to just scratch at the surface. We want this memory to pop so that it affects our readers. By developing our own take-away from this event, our description will help us avoid clichés and blanketed statements.

Joe Brainard’s I Remember is a literary and artistic cult classic. As an autobiography, his method was brilliantly simple. He shared specific memories as they rose to the surface of his consciousness, each prefaced by the refrain “I remember.”

Like Brainard’s pieces in his book, we can keep each “I remember” piece short, at a few sentences. We can also expand further, treating this as the start to a longer piece.

Yesterday, I participated in the Community of Stories through the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), here in Cincinnati. Under the guidance of a writing mentor, and in a group setting, the above warm-up was one of our writing exercises.

Here is my “I remember” list from yesterday:

  • I remember being alone in the dark without my candy.
  • I remember being proud of a woman going into space. Sitting on the hardwood floor, I watched my TV, seeing the rocket go up. Then, the next moment I was devasted when the Challenger exploded.
  • I remember the sensors wrapped on my fingers seemed to tighten when the needle moved further than before, displaying a peaked line on the graph paper which kept spitting out of the machine.
  • I remember the stranger who walked up to my tent on a Tuesday morning. He told me of terrorist planes hitting the Twin Towers. My kindly stranger was as puzzled as me.
  • I remember Andrea’s firm handshake was warm when I was hired for my library job.

This “I remember” warm-up reminds me that memories are not as fixed as we might assume. Memories are more fluid and then become fixed when they are recorded and supplemented with details.

Which “I remember” memory will you write about? -Elle-

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7 Steps to a Super-Spicy Title

Today’s tip for my writer friends is how to come up with a title. Okay, I admit, this post is as much for me as for you.

Seven Steps to a Super-Spicy Title

MIND MAPPING

1. Look for key words and names.

My keywords and names are:

  • Nana
  • Secrets
  • Yikes!

 

 

 

 

And themes. My themes include:

  • Earning my nana’s praise and my place in the family lineage
  • Homelessness
  • Overcoming insurmountable life difficulties
  • Reparation
  • Repetition

 

2. Consider subtitles. Include the category or genre in the subtitle. This will help readers when randomly searching for their next book.

My categories and genres are:

  • Memoir
  • Venture
  • Wanderlust

 

3. Consider length. One-word titles are popular and catchy. On the flip side, one word and only one word can leave a reader clueless as to what it’s about.

 

4. Thinking about keywords and names, themes, subtitles, and length, make a list of possible titles.

 

This is my list. It comes from what some of you have told me and from my publishing house, along with my idea or two.

  • From Nana’s Girl to Elle: A Transformational Memoir
  • Nana’s Girl
  • One Was Never Enough: A Wanderlust Memoir
  • One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough: A Memoir of Secrets
  • Secrets: One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough

 

(Okay, I know, I broke a couple rules in coming up with that list. So, moving on–)

 

WHITTLING DOWN

 

5. Eliminate misleading titles.

 

My editor suggests not to use a title with the word “secrets”. He says this could cause my book to be miscategorized.

 

I have a problem with “Nana’s Girl”. I’m fifty years old.

 

Many of you have told me you like “Secrets: One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough.” Problem, being, this is an awfully long title for an e-book cover.

 

“One Was Too Many and Two Were Not Enough: A Memoir of Secrets” could be better–it has the category in the subtitle. Again, though, it is long.

 

6. Any titles left over after scratching out what could be misleading, Google these titles. If a title is already in use with popularity, eliminate it. Then, look at the title options which have made the cut. Hopefully, one of these will be a great title.

 

Nana’s Girl. An Etsy shop comes up on Google.

 

STILL STUMPED?

 

7. Let readers choose the title. Okay, my friends, as you follow my writing journey, what is your vote for my title?

 

And if you’ve written a story or poem, what worked for you to name it?

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Choosing Your Publisher

My friend asks me, “You’re publishing with who?”

I tell him.

“Who?” he asks again, with a squinted wrinkle protruding from his left eye socket.

What he isn’t hearing is that there are countless publishers – than just The Top 5 for publishing our manuscript into a book.

Publishers come in all sizes and shapes. It’s our responsibility to vet these publishers before choosing who can vet us. ———-

There are plenty more publishers than Simon & Schuster, which Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, and Mary Higgins Clark are published by.

Notice I didn’t say “published with” but “published by”. This is one of many differences among the varying types of publishers.

Luckily, there is an easier way to think about this. Publishers can be divided into categories, each with “pros” and “cons.” What these pros and cons are can vary from author to author. The key is to determine which is likely the best fit for you.

Breaking it down, these are the categories:

 

COMMERCIAL PUBLISHERS

 

Traditional

Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hatchette, and MacMillan.

This is like winning the lottery—but we hear of lottery winners nearly every day. To win the lottery, you have to first get a lottery ticket. To try your luck with these big name publishers, you have to first get an agent to represent you.

Like with other publishers, a vetting process is used by these top 5, yet based on platform and not just merit. These publishers buy exclusive rights to the author’s work with advanced royalty payments. Rights go beyond who owns the books; rights include all facets of decision making in the process to create the published work and then market it. Hence, an author is published “by” and not “with” these publishers.

Of interest, author’s royalty rates after publication are low, at an average of 9%.

Much like being patient in playing the lottery, so is the process with these publishers a lengthy one. Authors wait a year or more for their acceptance letter, then a year or more for their book publication.

Traditional Small Presses and Publishers

Hundreds (if not more) of these publishers exist, many with a broad range of genres, and some which specialize in genres.

But a few are Brandt Street Press, Ink Smith Publishing, and Melville House.

There are also subcategories to small traditional publishers, including:

Boutique Presses: Specializing in a narrow subject, commonly with expertise, and limited marketing demand.

Business-Collaborative Publishers: Here, two or more businesses work together to produce a published work. They hire a publisher, much the same as they hired their legal team or their marketing consultants. All parties work together to benefit the businesses.

Regional Publishers: Specializing in a narrow geographic interest, again often with expertise.

Textbook Presses: Focused on publications for educational institutions. Convergent Publishing is one.

University Presses: Sometimes this is the same as a small publisher, but handled by a university, making it different from a Textbook Publisher. Sometimes, these are scholarly reviewed, and sometimes marketed solely to educational institutions; sometimes not.

These small publishers work much the same as the above Top 5. Often times, but not always, an agent is a must. Again, the publisher owns the rights to the published works and the author receives royalties. Rather than years of waiting, though, an author can usually see their book published in about a year, on average.

 

HYBRID PUBLISHERS

(Also called “Indie Publishing”)

 

This is a class all on its own, and gaining momentum in only the last five years.

Built on a traditional model, from manuscript vetting to publication, makes it by definition traditional publishing. Publication rights revert to the author, which by definition classifies it as self-publishing. These two publishing criteria create an anomaly, thereby deeming it a Hybrid Publisher.

Hybrid publishers tend to cater to and favor the unknown or emerging writers. Publishers take a risk on these unknown writers, but alleviate this risk through the author’s investment—usually at a flat fee. Extras or ancillary items not required to publish the works may incur extra fees. The financial investment on the part of the author offsets the royalty rates, driving rates up from the average 9% to an average of 70%.

The time spent from querying the publisher up until publication date can vary greatly on several factors, but the turn-around time is normally quicker than with Commercial Publishers.

Essentially, it is a vested interest by both the publisher and the author. At times, an agent is involved to help the hybrid publisher and author meet. Whereas, some hybrid publishers don’t require an agent.

A few Hybrid Publishers to choose from are Boyle & Dalton, Hugo House Publishers, and She Writes Press.

 

SELF-PUBLISHING

(Also called “Indie Publishing”)

Vanity Publishers

No manuscript vetting is needed because the author is hiring the publisher rather than the publisher accepting the author.

Essentially, this is self-publishing with someone (the publisher) doing the work for the author. While a flat fee may be incurred, the expense is usually a pay per service, from editing to design to marketing, and everything else—each to-do-item comes with its own price to be added to the bill of sale.

Dog-Ear Publishing is one Vanity Publisher.

Self Publishing

In this case, you, the author is the publisher. You are in control and responsible for managing everything. There is no publisher to hire or to accept an offer from, other than yourself.

I hope this helps you build upon your knowledge. Alongside writing my manuscript, I’ve invested time, energy, and even at times money (classes, webinars) to become as informed as I possibly can. I’ve also gained friendships among writers, editors, and those in the publishing industry through this investment.

As an informed writer, I am confident in my choice of which type of publisher to enter into a relationship with. How about you? What could be your best fit out of the wealth of choices afforded us?

xxx

 

This post has been revised and was first published on 10/29/17 at Blogging my Writing Journey, found at NovElle.blogspot.com.

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