Introducing Theresa Milstein

I’ve known Theresa for ages now – although I can’t remember how or when we met. That’s usually how writers appear in my life, surreptitiously, hanging around my blog or Facebook when I’m lost in a series of scenes and popping up with useful advice. I’m delighted to have her on my blog to help celebrate the launch of her new book, Time & Circumstance, which I reviewed on Goodreads recently. Take it away, Theresa…

 

When Vine Leaves Literary Journal began to give a platform for the vignette, the first question I asked was, “What’s a vignette?” At that point, I’d written a few manuscripts and short stories for children and teens, and I’d taken several poetry workshops. My heart was in the novel. I’d only started submitting short stories because I’d heard it was a good way to gain writing experience and it gave me a few publishing credits. The poetry workshops became a creative outlet, but I hadn’t taken it seriously.

Vine Leaves rejected my first submission, which was all telling and not at all a vignette. I read their first issue. There, I truly got the idea that a vignette is a moment in time captured. Vine Leaves accepted my second, a prose piece. The third time I submitted a poem, and it was accepted.

I became a regular vignette writer. I’d write because something impacted me, and the only way to come to terms with it was to say something about it in a small space. I’ve found that vignettes fill the void when I’m letting a full-length manuscript sit. There was one blog I turned to regularly for inspiration. It no longer posts, and I miss it. I’ve learned that I’m a competitive person: give me a picture prompt and a phrase of some sort, and I’m typing away. Several years later, I’d accumulated enough vignettes to make a collection.

I’ve been asked what determines if a piece of writing becomes poetry or prose. Often the first line directs me. If it’s lyrical, and I sense a rhythm in the next line, it becomes a poem. I wind up with many more poems than prose. But if the subject needs more freedom than the space a poem will take, prose works better for me. I know there are people who write poetry with long lines or that go on for many pages. I recently went to a poetry reading, and the woman recited her poem for about fifteen minutes. That’s not my style.

When editing my vignette collection with Vine Leaves Press, I appreciated the editor’s perspective. Several of my poems became prose poems, which is a poem that appears as prose. So, sometimes what works best for my writing is a compromise between the two forms!

 

photoTheresa Milstein writes middle grade and YA, but poetry is her secret passion. Her vignette collection, TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE, will be published by Vine Leaves Press in March 21, 2017. She lives near Boston Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a dog-like cat, and a cat-like dog. For her day job, she works as a special education teacher in a public school, which gives her ample opportunity to observe teens and tweens in their natural habitat.

 

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TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE is available for preorder.

$3.99 AUD (eBook)
Kindle AUS
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iBooks | Kobo | Nook

$12.99 AUD (paperback)
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Chapters Indigo

 

Leave a comment, and you’re eligible to win a prize during my blog tour!

 1 $25 Amazon gift card

1 signed paperback copy

1 ebook

 

Answer the question:

“If you could relive any moment in time, what would it be?”

 

Extra entries if you share on Facebook or Twitter and link it to me.

@TheresaMilstein on Twitter.

@Theresa Milstein on Facebook

#ReliveMoment or #TimeandCircumstance

 

Winners will be announced on April 5, 2017

 

 

 

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Where Words Fail, Music Speaks

clusterbusters-facebook-header

Two lovely author friends – Kyra Lennon and Clare Dugmore – are editing an anthology, Where Words Fail, Music Speaks, in aid of research into cluster headaches, a debilitating condition suffered by more people than you’d think. Kyra knows at least a couple of people who suffer which inspired her to create the anthology.

And one my of stories is going to be included!

The cover reveal is scheduled for 14 March, and we would be so grateful if you are able to share it on your blog/website. The sign up form is right here!

Thank you!

 

 

My tips for submitting

My last post, My rules for writing, was quite popular, so I got cocky and started thinking maybe I could actually help writers.

Here are a few tips about how to submit your work, because this seems to cause either rejection-quote-2-picture-quote-1agony or resentment, as your darlings are repeatedly rejected. These tips will work just as well for online and print journals, small press publishers and agents.

(Note: some of these tips might sound harsh, but they come with love as – as I shared in the last post – many, many, many years of experience)

  1. Just as with editing, you need to distance yourself from your manuscript when you’re submitting, because your first-choice agent/journal is not obliged to accept your work. You have become a salesperson, they are your customer. If they don’t want it, you can’t force them, and it isn’t personal. How many times have you said ‘no thank you’ to a cold-caller offering double glazing? When you submit, you are the cold-caller.
  2. Follow the individual guidelines of each market – word counts, ms layout, and extra requirements might all be mentioned specifically.
  3. Be professional. Check the name of the editor/agent, and begin your email ‘Dear…’ or if that feels too fusty, perhaps Good Morning… or Good Afternoon. Never Hi, or Hey or skip that part altogether. Your first approach should be formal; once you have a relationship (or even a second/third email) you can relax a little.
  4. End your email similarly with Regards, Kind Regards or Faithfully/Sincerely if you wish. Bonus points to anyone knows the correct context to use Faithfully and Sincerely!
  5. First names are fine, I think, these days. But Mr/Mrs/Miss are traditional and formal. And using first names avoids the need to know whether your female recipient is married or not!
  6. I like to have a list of markets for the same book/story, so that if I get a rejection I can send it out again straight away.
  7. If the reply is a rejection, do not enter into correspondence with the editor. I know most people wouldn’t do this, but there have been instances, and those instances somehow find their way into the public domain for everyone to see. Worst case scenario, you may find yourself blacklisted by all editors or agents if your conduct is very poor.
  8. Try not to weep and wail and throw away every scrap of writing that you’ve ever done. This is one person’s view of that one story on that one day you sent it. If it had reached them the day before or the day afterwards – or if their dog hadn’t died, or their car hadn’t broken down – the outcome may have been different.
  9. Although, some chocolate/wine/coffee is allowed.
  10. Don’t give up. It might be tempting to self-publish at the first sign of rejection, but before you do, ask yourself if that’s what you really want. If it is, awesome, go for it. If you have a yearning to follow in the footsteps of J.K. Rowling, keeping trying. After all, J.K did!

Can you add any other tips that have worked for you?

 

My rules for writers

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon Zadie Smith’s Rules for Writers, and, coupled with a conversation I had on Twitter last night, I thought I’d give my own list a go.

For those of you still new to me, here are my credentials: I’ve been seriously writing for publication since I was about fifteen (which is 27 years and pre-internet!), have received at least 300 rejections, had two major writing breaks, and suffer writers block every time I finish a project.

4-book-web-site-picI’ve also had 12 short stories published in small press journals; 19 short stories long-listed, short-listed and placed 3rd, 2nd or 1st in competitions; and three books published by small/indie publishers and one book self-published.

  1. Don’t aspire be the next [insert best-selling author in your genre], be the first you. By the time you’ve read that author’s latest book, and been inspired to write something similar, the industry has moved on to the next big thing. Don’t you want to lead rather than follow?
  2. Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Most books go through at least several drafts before they are published. Mine go through many
  3. Don’t be afraid of rejection. I wrote a post about that…
  4. Read, a lot – in your genre, outside of your genre, non-fiction
  5. Don’t force yourself to write if you don’t feel like it. I’ve read a lot of advice that says you should write every day, but it doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it
  6. In fact, ignore any advice you don’t think will work for you
  7. Know the rules of good grammar, and then break them, if it works in your story
  8. Know the rules of submission etiquette and stick to them. Agents and editors have a preference, for their ease, on how they want to be approached. Don’t give them a reason to reject you before they’ve even read your manuscript. Janet Reid has a lot of advice. Personally, I learnt from Writing Magazine.
  9. Take regular breaks, preferably outside. You don’t want to look pasty in your promotional material
  10. Don’t give up if things don’t go exactly to plan. Think of plans more as a guideline.

Bonus tip: Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, if it causes you misery or heartache or depression more than it brings you joy, consider whether it’s really the path you want to take.

 

What would you add to this list?

 

Fake News or Chocolate Hob Nobs?

I’ve been sitting on this post, this idea, for a long time. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever post it, but the concept isn’t going away. One of my concerns is that I’m going to delve into politics… But  this isn’t a political post, it’s a grammatical one, a linguistic one.

I hate the term Fake News. It’s meaningless. It’s a catchphrase.

what-you-talkin-bout-willis-quote-1
Also a catchphrase 🙂

In a speech to commemorate Black History Month, Trump said,

“You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago, when somebody said I took the statue out of my office and it turned out that that was fake news. Fake news.”

Wait? What? Turned out? 

No! It didn’t turn out to be anything – things only turn out to be something else if you don’t have personal insight of the event. You can say, “I thought Beyonce was looking a little chubby, and it turns out she’s pregnant,” but you can’t say, “I thought my bedroom was looking really good, and it turns out I tidied it.”

It’s such a passive way to express yourself. (I’m going to completely ignore that he often refers to himself in the third person… that’s a whole different post!)

As you probably know that report was, in this instance, wrong – and the reporter corrected his mistake. Trump could have said,

“But actually, the statue was exactly where it’s been for the last eight years.”

It would have made him sound reasonable and a little more presidential. But the catchphrase won through.

For balance – because this is not a political post – other cries of fake news have proven to be correct, but the term seems to hold a lot of sway, if it’s shouted loudly enough. It’s short enough to just repeat over and over until the reporter/interviewer gives up hope of ever getting an answer.

With a catchphrase, you don’t need to put reason, logic and plausibility into your replies. In fact, you don’t need to put any thought into them. I wish I was a kid right now (and I hope my kids don’t read this!) Conversations with my mum would be so cool.

Mum – “Annalisa, why did you eat the whole packet of Chocolate Hob Nobs?”

Me – *blank stare, waiting for excuse to pop into my head*

Mum – “Your sister said she saw you.”

Me – “Fake news!”

By the way, in the UK, fake news is such an old concept. After all, we had this:

Image result for ate my hamster

Do you have a linguistic pet peeve? Has ‘fake news’ annoyed you too?

#ThrowbackThursday – Right hand/left hand

It’s Thursday, which means I’ve looked into the archives of my old blog to bring you something I think might interest you. This week, I’ve been playing around with my new novel, but the beginning isn’t right – I think I’ve started it in the wrong place, and I’m not sure how to fix it. Then I remembered a technique I’ve used in the past that might help. 


 

This is my attempt at a useful post. I’ve moaned about mentioned my tendency towards writers block since this blog was born. And today I thought I’d talk about a method that really helped me with one story in particular. The story Omelette won third place in the inaugural Words with Jam short story competition a couple of years ago, so I feel confident in sharing this method with you. (And is now free to read on WattPad!)

What you do is swap the hand you normally write with!

That’s it. How easy!

This isn’t my invention – I read about it, but I can’t remember where.

The theory behind it is that writing with the wrong hand makes you concentrate much harder on the actual mechanics of forming the words on the page, which leaves your subconscious mind free to be creative.

Try this:

Start with the sentence When I was younger my favourite toy was…

Remember to write it with the wrong hand, and don’t analyse the content – that’s very important: don’t censor yourself!

When I tried it myself, I managed to pull out a long forgotten incident involving my mum, which actually had nothing to do with my favourite toy. It’s a great way to stop writers block in its tracks.

Part of Omelette written normally…
… and with my left/wrong hand

This technique helped me past a particularly difficult part of the story. Don’t be fooled by how neat my writing looks – I remember having to concentrate very hard!

 

Have you tried something like this before? Or even, just now? How did you get on?
 
 

Slip-sliding away

Good morning, lovely people! What a great day. The sun is shining, and it’s just above freezing. On our walk this morning, the grass was solid with thick frost, the river was mirror-still, and there was a beautiful river mist clinging to the valley and edge of Plymouth.

There are no photos, because it was far too cold to take my gloves off so I could operate the camera. So here’s a picture of Artoo before we left, at the moment he’d given up hope of ever going for a walk ever again…

artoo-asleep

I tend to spend these walks thinking about my writing plan for the day, and today I was completely overwhelmed by all the things I want to do and the time I have to do it. I have:

  • my NaNoWriMo novel to develop into a proper novel – including all those bouts of utter paranoia that it’s the worst idea in the world (which is time-consuming)
  • 4 short story competitions I want to enter within the next month, which also need writing or re-writing, and then several more over the months after that
  • to keep up with blogs I follow, new and old, because I’ve realised I’ve lost touch with some of the amazing people that have helped me so far (and probably don’t even know it). And I’m worried that my move from Blogger to WordPress means that some of them have given up on me
  • re-write a novella I re-wrote badly last year. Except, it heavily features a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, which also happens to be be the basis of the novel I’m writing. I don’t like the idea of writing two stories which could be tucked nicely into a genre together like that – I want to do different things

As you can see, this isn’t really a to-do list, it’s an overcoming-my-issues list, which will be a lot harder.

I’d love some feedback – especially on the Blogger/Wordpress issue, and the fixation on mothers I seem to have at the moment.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

You. I. Us. by Annalisa Crawford

You. I. Us.

by Annalisa Crawford

Giveaway ends January 27, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway