Monthly Archives: March 2012

Notes on Adrienne Rich

Twenty-one Love Poems, by Adrienne Rich, was the first lesbian poetry book I read. A fellow cadet when I was at ROTC camp after my junior year of college in 1980 suggested I read it, knowing something about me before I knew it myself. I went on to read much of her other work but the one piece that affected me the most, that in many ways defined me as a young adult and fledging dyke, was Adrienne Rich’s Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying (1975). Adrienne Rich Reading her essay gave me clarity as I underwent the paradigm shifting experience of becoming a lesbian feminist from religious fundamentalist. Her words were simple and searching.

Women have to think, whether we want, in our relationships with each other, the kind of power that can be obtained through lying.

They provided me a foundation and essential structure for how my relationships could be defined and what my expectations of self and others might become.

In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or  person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even with our own lives.

This was very different from the concept of honor as learned from folklore and history, rife with men’s accomplishment through violence, revenge, and vigilantes.

In a March 2, 2011 interview with Kate Waldmen for the Paris Review, Adrienne Rich said “Nothing “obliges” us to behave as honorable human beings except each others’ possible examples of honesty and generosity and courage and lucidity, suggesting a greater social compact.” This quote reflects what she wrote in 1975 in her essay, “Truthfulness, honor, is not something which springs ablaze of itself; it has to be created between people.

Adrienne Rich gave me a blueprint for transformation. Reading her words changed and charted my life as regardless of its trajectory, I sought to fulfill the “truly womanly idea of honor in the making” she wrote about in her Women and Honor.

Not long ago, I wondered at the concept of women and honor and considered how her essay would update to now, the 21st century, almost 40 years from when it was published. Pulling a yellowed, dog-eared copy from the shelf I’d re-read it. In doing so I realized that there was no authentic call for a revised, updated version. Her words still rang true. In some sense, even more accurate as our society has become more violent, more fractured, more manipulative than the cultural context of the mid 1970s.

Imagine now, if women, if all of us, regardless of orientation, embraced the message of her essay.

Truthfulness, honor, is not something which springs ablaze of itself; it has to be created between people. This is true in political situations. The quality and depth of the politics evolving from a group depends in large part on their understanding of honor. Much of what is narrowly termed “politics” seems to rest on a longing for certainty even at the cost of honesty, for an analysis which, once given, need not be re-examined…It isn’t that to have an honorable relationship with you, I have to understand everything, or tell you everything at once, or that I can know, beforehand, everything I need to tell you. It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the possibility of telling you. That these possibilities may seem frightening, but not destructive to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us.

March 27th, 2012, Adrienne Rich died at the age of 82. Her words from nearly 40 years ago, remain a touchstone for “The possibility of life between us.

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Chow Nominated for Global E-Book Award

Chow has been accepted into nomination for a Global E-book Award. The Global Ebook Awards honor and bring attention to the future of book publishing: Ebooks. Now in its second year, the Awards are in 72 specific categories. They are open to all publishers large and small so that a winner is the best in its category not just the best of small or regionally-published ebooks. Most ebooks are also available as printed books as well. The awards ceremony will be in gorgeous Santa Barbara on August 18, 2012.

Chow is an excerpt from Hudson’s unpublished collection of essays recounting her career of 32 years in the Army Reserves. An Army moves on its stomach but combat rations only go so far for so long and a Soldier has to find something else to eat. From mess halls to mess kits, Chow chronicles one Soldier’s inventiveness and adventure in food while deployed in wartime. A small snapshot into what many never think about – what’s to eat?

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Gems from the San Francisco Writers Conference 2012

Michael Larsen, co director of the San Francisco Writers Conference and Writing for Change Conference, is posting select handouts from this year’s sold out San Francisco Writers Conference on his blog site. This is a great way to see some of the useful and informative topics presented, especially if you’re wondering about attending for the first time. Postings include Feedback on the Page: How to Give Feedback in a Writing Group from my workshop with Tanya Egan Gibson, Penny Warner’s 7 Perfect Places to Write, Jeevan Sivasubramaniam’s 7 Questions for Preparing a Proposal and more.

For an interesting perspective on the panel discussion at this year’s conference “Being a Change Agent, Writing for a Better World” read this blog post by The Writer Magazine staff writer E. Abbe Can Books Change the World?

Want a taste of the conference presentations? Check out the San Francisco Writers Conference Teleseminar Series and listen to talks from Joan Gelfand, Alan Rinzler, Chris Soth, Kevin Smokler, Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomoda and others.

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The value of Subject Matter Experts

In 2007 while a Fellow at the Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Retreat, one of the Retreat events was a panel discussion with publishers and editors. I asked a question about the future of self publishing and across the panel, the agreement was that for serious authors, the traditional route would remain the way to go if you wrote anything besides poetry, which has a long history of self publishing. Listening to publishers and editors the last few years at the San Francisco Writers Conference, self publishing has become a viable, honorable, non-self-indulgent method towards becoming published. A sea change over these five years.

I first explored self publishing with Chow,  an excerpt from Weekend Warrior, Dispatches from the Army Reserve, a future collection of narrative essays from my 32 years of service. Using Smashwords, I attempted to do all the work myself and swiftly accepted that in terms of cover design, I could spend the time to learn the software or I could spend less than $100 bucks and hire out. I had a design in mind and using the free list of recommended designers Smashwords will provide I found a great one, Joleen Naylor. I took the photo for the cover, described the concept I had in mind and Joleen put that concept into reality.

I chose to do the internal formatting of the text myself. Smashwords gives you all the direction needed, if heeded, no problem. But it took time. I’m pretty handy with word, I did learn a few things after reading the Smashwords style guide that made taking the time to read the style guide well worth the investment.

When I moved on to No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique, and actual complete work that I wanted to get into print. I got help again. Joleen again took the concept I had in mind, and the photos I shot and turned the idea into an excellent cover. (The photo is of the actual manuscript after I received it back from editing.)

With internal book design, again, I realized I was out of my depth if I wanted a good, professional product. There is also a world of difference between design for e-book publishing and design for print publishing.

For the initial print run, I chose a digital print company, 360 Digital Books, Using their recommendation list I choose book designer Patricia Rasch. For a few hundred dollars, Pat made sure that my internal formatting met the requirements for 360 to offset print, she also tweaked the cover files for the digital print press and turned my word document into the proper format for a create space printing.

Why, you may ask, would I do both a short run via a digital press and a create space print? Excellent question. I wanted to have copies on hand for the SF Writers Conference where I was presenting a workshop with Tanya Egan Gibson on writers groups and critique. I didn’t think I’d get things through create spaces process fast enough. Create space also solved distribution for me by putting the book up on Amazon.

Would I do the same next time? Another good question. No, but that is a different blog post.

Many self publishing authors seek to do as much as they can, if not all, themselves. That is admirable, and in my mind, not good use of an author’s time. First, I’m not a design expert, internal or cover, so paying someone to accomplish better what I would have to take time to figure out frees me up for what I want to do more, which is write. Second, in becoming my own publisher, I take on the responsibility to meet the standards of the publishing industry. That means a well done, professional product. When you look at my self-published book, and hold it up against any other book, there should be nothing that screams “SELF PUBLISHED BOOK”.

Ensuring I publish a quality product means I need one other type of professional help – editing and proofing. That’s where I went wrong. I did have professional editors, though I did not hire them as they were friends that volunteered to provide edits. They did good work and I still should have hired a copy editor to catch the dozen or so small details that both them and I missed. When the proofs came back, again, I should have had someone else, someone that had not read the work hundreds of times (like I had), someone not intimately familiar with all the incarnations of the work (me, the author), someone with patience to read the copy word for word, line for line, (not me the tired of looking at this author). Because I did not get that level of help, I have hundreds of “uncorrected proof” copies.

Moral of the story – yes, you can produce a product all by yourself. But why do that, when for really not a whole lot of money, less than $1000 all told, you can ensure a quality, professional product by contracting out with some subject matter experts (SME). Together, you and those SMEs will ensure a quality, meet or exceeding professional standards, product – the book.

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Self Publishing – Easy Peasy!

For the past several years, I and author Tanya Egan Gibson have presented a workshop on writer groups and critique skills at the San Francisco Writers Conference. After last year’s conference, I decided to turn the handouts and information into an actual book. I completed the draft and wanted print copies available for the participants. A good self publishing project I thought. I can do it. So I did. What I found out is self publishing is not as easy as I thought, it is a relatively straight forward process, and there are some pitfalls to look out for. Here’s the top 5 lessons learned: 1. You can never proof too many times. 2. Get help. 3. Controlling price is important. 4. Who owns the ISBN is the publisher. 5. Consider distribution up front, not after printing. And I’ll just say it again – Proof the work before printing.  

Right now, I’ve about 600 “uncorrected proof” copies of No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups, & Critique. Half have a table of contents that is not accurate because when a last minute addition of pages was made to improve the internal design, neither the designer nor I remembered to check that the TOC file updated. Point one to inexperience – when I think editing and proof reading, I think of content, not front matter. Well, now I know.

And that other half – well, they have about a dozen errors that are typo or consistency of word choice issues. I should have caught them in the final copy editing or when reviewing the final proof before printing. But I didn’t. I didn’t because I had looked at the work so many times, I failed to really LOOK at the work when reviewing the proof.

Lesson learned.

What will I do with the 600 copies of the book I won’t sell now because of errors? Those will be distributed to attendees the next time I do a workshop on critique, as “uncorrected proof” copies.

Coming up in the next post – Get help.

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Entry for LitStack Flash Fiction Challenge #5

Roses and Water Lilies

The crinoline felt scratchy on her skin. Funny how the warm stone made her feel like she had to pee. She’d heard them calling for her but since she wasn’t supposed to ever be near the pond, this would be the last place they’d look. Each time the breeze shifted, a waft of fragrance from the water lilies drifted across her face.  Faint bubbling was the background but she wasn’t sure what that sound was from. In the beginning, when she first started sneaking off to sit near the water, the rustling and scratching in the bushes scared her. It sounded so loud on the quiet spring mornings.

“What’s that?” She whispered, startled.

“Just the birds, little miss. There’s a nest of barn sparrows and some doves are rustling in the rose hedge around the pond.”

“I didn’t know you were here.”

“I know. Come along now, you know you aren’t supposed to be here.”

“Please, let me stay. Don’t tell.”

The tall, gangly boy looked down at the little girl. He looked around for a moment and then sighed.

“Okay. But promise me you won’t go any closer to the water. You’ll stumble into the roses and the thorns will get you or fall into the water, and I know you don’t know how to swim yet.”

“I never get to feel the grass on my toes.”

Mac noticed the little white socks with black across the top and the pink shoes against the deep green grass. Mary Jane socks, he remembered had been his sister’s favorites. Mom had to take them when she was asleep to get them into the wash. They were the same age, Little Miss and her. Or would have been.

“The air will feel cooler near the water,” he said.

Mac had crunched away across the dry summer grass. He never bothered her when she was able to escape to this place. She knew he managed to always work his way around nearby though. He never said anything to her again but she knew he was near. He hummed softly when he worked and sometimes, along with the scent of roses and lilies, she could smell tantalizing garlic and onion. She knew it was from him when he’d been working hard.  She wondered what he ate to smell so that it sometimes just made her hungry.

She heard steps along the walk. She sighed. This was the last time she’d sit here like this.

Goodbye, she thought.


She looked up towards her mother, the sun warm upon her face as she did so.

“Come along. Time to go.”

Claire took her mother’s hand and walked slowly with her. She stopped and turned back towards the scent of rose and water lily. She didn’t see Mac shade his eyes to watch her walk away. She didn’t see him start to wave, then drop his hand.

“Come along sweetie. Let’s go get those new eyes.”

She’d never see her favorite place this way again.


Roses and Lilies was entered at LitStack in Flash Fiction Challenge #5. Visit the site to see the prompt and find links to other entries. 

Photo by Daphne Bahamonde


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Read an E-Book Week at Smashwords!

A little late,  but through tomorrow, you can find great free and reduced e-books at smashwords in celebration of Read an E-Book Week. This includes a free copy of my recently released No Red Pen, if you use coupon code REW75. What are you waiting for? Check it out here!

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