Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

The Evolution of Writers

Today’s re-blog relates one writer’s effort to continue creating in spite of the political atmosphere…

Live to Write - Write to Live

I’m having a difficult time writing these days.

I’ll sit at my desk ready to work on a piece and then my phone beeps. There’s another news alert – The Press Secretary has doubled down on a clear lie at the daily press conference.

Or there’s an announcement of another Executive Order (decree).

Or I hear about some State Rep in Minnesota who passed an amendment so that health insurance companies won’t have to cover many pre-existing conditions like diabetes, prenatal care, ventilator care, Lyme disease … the list goes on and on and on. (Interestingly Erectile dysfunction will still be covered – Phew!)

Or there’s a gag order on government agencies who report directly to the public, (EPA, USDA) if you cared about the environment or the food that you eat, good luck, you’re now on your own.

Or an elected official is tweeting about the “fat women” who…

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Interview with a Most Talented and Enterprising Publisher

Do you know this woman? Laura Stanfill

More than likely not, unless you’re a regular reader of this blog; or, you’re involved in the literary scene in Oregon, U.S.A.; or, perhaps, you’ve bought something from Forest Avenue Press

However, more folks could soon know her since she’s been nominated for Publishers Weekly Star Watch, which was created “…to identify and celebrate members of the U.S. publishing community who are on the rise and bring recognition to them on a global stage.”

Some of you who follow this blog may remember that she founded the Main Street Writers Movement

And, I’m happy to say there is a new interview with—drum roll—spotlight onLaura Stanfill !

The interview was conducted by Edwin L. Battistella—instructor of linguistics and writing at Southern Oregon University—author of six books and over fifty academic articles. He “…is on the editorial board of The Oregon Encyclopedia, and the Executive Committee of the Linguistic Society of America. He is the co-editor-in-chief of the Wiley-Blackwell journal Language and Linguistics Compass.” He also “…contributes a monthly blog to Oxford University Press, called Between the Lines with Edwin Battistella.”

As is my usual plan, I’ll share a few excerpts and encourage you to read the Full Interview

As part of her relating what she’s learned in publishing, Laura said:

“I spent two years selling books out of the back of my car—and toting boxes to bookstores for consignment—before signing with Legato Publishers Group…We have sales conferences and reps that sell our books across the U.S., which makes our marketing and publicity efforts even more crucial, because the risk is higher. But the potential reward is higher, too.”

While discussing her choice of Portland, Oregon for her business, she said:

“We…have incredibly dedicated booksellers who write excellent shelf talkers and hand-sell local titles to browsers. When I showed up as a new publisher, I found friends and allies in the indie bookstore world because I had been buying books and attending events for a decade. My mission with Forest Avenue was to urge in-person conversations about literature, so I created an events-based marketing plan that I still use today. My whole business model is centered on independent bookstores. I support bookstores; bookstores support our authors. It sounds obvious, but it’s important. Essential.”

When asked about Main Street Writers Movement, she said:

“It’s a movement geared to encouraging writers to build community at the local level by supporting each other, their indie bookstores, and local presses and magazines. If we can create these invested hubs of community goodness, then the whole national literary ecosystem will become stronger. And touring writers will be able to activate Main Street communities in the places they travel….We use #mainstreetwriters as our hashtag to help members find each other.”

Here’s where you can read more about or join Main Street Writers Movement

Again, I encourage you to read the Full Interview; but, here’s a final excerpt to help you decide to go over there :-)

When asked what she looks for in an author, Laura said:

“I look for someone who has been actively building community, because it’s really hard to sell books by authors who are only invested in promoting their own work. Debut authors are a favorite, because so many of them have spent years honing their craft, and it’s a huge honor to launch an author’s first title.

“I love working with authors who have a strong sense of their own craft and want to work together with our team to get the book to reach its full potential. That kind of collaborative spirit is essential.”

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A New Kind of Book Club by Sarah FitzHenry

Are you a Teacher or Librarian?

Then, today’s re-blog is a giant Gift…

What about the rest of you?

Read on and you’ll be amazed ! :-)

Nerdy Book Club

Book clubs. As educators, we love them – but for student participants, they can be intimidating. Some students aren’t strong readers; others don’t like talking in front of groups; some readers, like me, can struggle to put their feelings about a text into words. As a child I loved to read. But during book discussions, I found myself lost and confused, feeling like an inconvenience to the group. While I often loved the book, I feared the inevitable discussion. I wanted to move and dance and celebrate the text in a way that felt special to me – instead, we sat around a table while I dreaded my turn to talk. I left most book discussions feeling discouraged and embarrassed; I couldn’t seem to express how much the books meant to me. When I became a school librarian, I knew that I wanted to create a new kind of book…

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Journalists Have a Lot to Teach Other Writers . . .

Back in January, I published a post called, Investigative Journalists Are Storytellers, Too…

Here’s an excerpt:

What is an Investigative Journalist?

One set of broad identifiers is on the JournalismFund.EU site:

  • Important subject – only a question of importance for the common good can motivate the amount of effort and resources, that very well may have to be invested in the research as well as the criticism uttered in the publication.
  • Own initiative – journalists/editors decide, what is important.
  • Own research – the reporter gathers information and documents, sometimes in spite of tough resistance.
  • Own analysis – the information gathered and the documents are evaluated. An expert can assist in the analysis, but publication does not depend on what someone says.
  • Exclusivity – the public learns important information, that else would not have been in the open.

Most of what those guidelines indicate could work quite well for essayists, memoirists, novelists, and other writers

That past post featured Jenny Kleeman; and, today, I’ll point you toward the work of two other journalists.

First is Christina Patterson, a columnist (which is a type of journalist) and broadcaster.

Christina Patterson

Christina Patterson

When wondering what a columnist could teach other writers it would be valuable to look at Christina’s About Page — here’s a short excerpt:

“After reading English at Durham, and doing an MA in ‘The Novel’ (with Malcolm Bradbury, Angela Carter and Lorna Sage) at the University of East Anglia, she worked in publishing before moving to the Southbank Centre to organise and present literary events. Writers who took part in the programme ranged from Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco to poets hardly anyone had ever heard of.”

Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day

Then, there’s Elizabeth Day—a journalist who’s the author of four novels…

Here are a few comments about her writing from reviewers:

“An acutely observed and insightful portrait of contemporary urban life. Audacious, funny and shrewdly telling – written with tremendous confidence and brio”
— William Boyd, Paradise City

“Day is an empathic observer. She is meticulous in teasing and dissecting each sensation”
— Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

“A moving, terrifyingly real account of how love can be bent out of all recognisable shape”
— The Observer — Scissors, Paper, Stone

The reason I know about these three journalists (writers) is that they all appear regularly on the Sky News segment, Press Preview.

They have all kinds of folks on Press Preview, some quite obnoxious; and, the format is the broadcast presenter leading two people in a discussion of the latest news stories.

The three journalists I’ve featured immediately grabbed my attention—they made sense, they spoke in complete sentences, and they actually gave Considered opinions.


If you’re a writer and you need a fresh approach to what writing is all about, do consider studying a few journalists, even if all they’re doing is talking
If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
Visit The Story Bazaar

Google Author Page
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

The end of exploration – on writing a book where you can’t make things up

I’ve pre-ordered the book Roz talks about in today’s re-blog :-)

Nail Your Novel

If you get my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Google+ you’ll have seen dancing and jubilation as Not Quite Lost is finally ready for general parading and pre-order.

It’s certainly been a new kind of writing experience, because, of course, I didn’t have the freedom to invent. This set some interesting boundaries for revision.

The pieces that were easiest to edit were the amusing mishaps  – mostly involving idiotic use of cars. Also easy were the fragments about people and places that were intriguing and mysterious. But other pieces gave me more difficulty, refused to spring into shape for a long time. They fell flat for my wise and ruthless beta-readers. ‘You lost my attention here,’ said one of them. But… but….. but… I thought.  There’s something in that story.

When a piece in a novel isn’t working but my gut tells me I want it in the…

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