Browsing all posts in: This Writing Life

Just Had to Share!

October 1

A while back a kind writer/reviewer named Barbara Snow reviewed Poles Apart on the Neworld Review book site. I’ve posted links to the review around the social media universe but just realized that I have been remiss in posting it here. So I’m doing my website one better, I’m posting the review itself as a blog post. I hope you enjoy Barbara’s review as much as I have.

Feel free to check out Neworld Review at www.neworldreview.com. Barbara is a regular reviewer there.

Poles Apart

LitSisters Publishing | Phoenix

Reviewed by Barbara Snow

A good story shows us people struggling to change, to make life better. It makes us care about them enough to forget that we’re reading a story and inspires us to changes of our own. The characters in Poles Apart are lovable in their humanness and forgivable in their fears and confusion, particularly since the patterns with which they struggle result from some of the most horrendous experiences possible.

Chaim Schlessel spent nearly half of his formative teen years in Auschwitz and lost his family there. He committed to living his life fully and joyfully as the only way to make sure the oppressors failed in their attempt to destroy him and his people. Unfortunately his refusal to speak of the past created a void for his son David, who when confronted with the atrocities that obliterated his family, had no way to comprehend or integrate such history.

This is a story about the damage to good people when truth is feared and fear deepens the darkness inside. It is a delightful snapshot into the dynamics of a modern Jewish family living in a typical mid-western city—Cleveland, OH. It is also a testament to the ability of loving family (whether it’s the one you were born into or one you chose) to heal the wounds of the past and support the freedom to be authentic.

While Poles Apart is a pleasurable read, it does not dodge the horrors that are part of our collective history. The memories of horrors that are meted out in tolerable measure still cause the stomach to clench and the body to shiver. Wyatt does an admirable job, particularly since she writes based on personal knowledge. It is appropriate and necessary to hold the human potential for destruction in consciousness. Americans are not exempt. The holocausts in this country began with the extermination of 19 million Native Americans and continued with blacks, and any others who become “demonized” by the perceived ruling class. Adolph Hitler actually stated that he used the model of the U.S. Government’s treatment of Native Americans in his design for the concentration camps.

This book does not try for the kind of distance that addresses the mass manipulation of citizens by their government. It is close to home and heart—close to the places where you and I, live with a relative sense of security. It reminds us of the ripple effect that violence and degradation have on people, families and communities. It is time that we acknowledge that like the adult children of alcoholics, the adult children of survivors of any violence also carry scars in their psyche. Ultimately, this story of the Schlessel family reminds us that we do not remain victims unless we choose to. Chaim Schlessel demonstrates profoundly that who we struggle to be and how we live is ultimately the place of victory.

On Love, Life

March 31

Maybe it’s the hormones, maybe it’s my age. I don’t know and I’m not interested in speculating on the specifics of either. But I’ve been very reflective of late and I thought it was time to share.

I started dating my husband at the end of 1984. We were really young. We married in June of 1988 and have lived “happily ever after” since. But that’s a storybook cliche. The truth is so much more complicated – and so much better.

We were so new back then. Our relationship was like a bright, shiny penny laying in the sun. There was lots of flash – in passion, in anger, in joy. We made our way, confident in the permanence of what we had, creating a cocoon in which to protect the precious life we built. As we added to that life, in the form of two beautiful daughters, the flash turned fluid and the days flowed one in to the next, exhaustion becoming a constant companion.

Now we’re older. Our relationship is older too. Our youngest is nearly grown and the oldest has already moved on to her own adventure. We’re looking back with wonder at how quickly it all went but we’re also looking forward toward a new phase of our lives. The bright shiny penny may no longer glint in the sun and the hectic pace of young children has eased. But what’s left has the depth and richness of the finest champagne and chocolate and savoring each drop is a new delight.

When I hear people speak in horrific tones of the tragedy of only sleeping with one person for the rest of their lives – another cliche – I shake my head and chuckle. They just don’t get it. We know each other more intimately than I ever could have imagined, a pleasure in the heart as well as the bedroom. We don’t jockey for position the way we did when we were young. We are confident in the knowledge that there’s room enough for both of us, our needs, desires, hopes and dreams. We find as much joy in the success of the other as we ever found in our own. Maybe more. And we savor. Everything. Every taste of that miraculous chocolate. Every sip of that glorious champagne.

But all this makes me wonder. If it’s so much better now than I ever imagined it could be, what will I say in twenty-five more years?

May-December Psychosis

December 20

I recently told a colleague that it’s been a bad month for me. She assumed I meant that things were bad/something was wrong – you get the idea. But that’s not it at all. My problem is that it’s December. I could just as easily say it’s May.

Any writer with kids, or even just a big family, knows what I’m talking about. How do you write when you have choir concerts, orchestra concerts, band concerts, holiday pageants, charitable obligations, holiday parties, travel, company – and that’s on top of holiday cards, shopping, cleaning, decorating, cooking and baking? (If it’s May, substitute end of school year/beginning of summer for holiday) I’m exhausted just writing the list. So back to the question, how do you write when you’re going out of your mind?

I’m a big Nike fan on this topic. I say, “just do it.” I believe that in order to be a writer I must write. Now by write I also mean non-prose work related to my WIP. So it may be plotting, or blogging, or character development, or editing. But I’m determined to spend a minimum of twenty minutes a day doing work related to my writing, even on the most hectic of days. And twenty minutes a day is enough, for two reasons. First off, I can take comfort in the fact that I did indeed get something done. And as any writer knows, that comfort can help sustain us through a lot of self-loathing. Second, and more important, that twenty minutes may get me on a roll that carries me until I look at the clock on the corner of the screen, swear loudly, and leap up to prepare for the next thing, whatever it is. Either way, I’ve accomplished something.

So take your twenty minutes every day, even if all you can muster is a blank stare at the pages of your WIP. Do it while the dough is rising, or before you go to bed, or while your supportive family is doing the dinner dishes. Just do it.

Lots Going on This Autumn!

September 10

Thankfully, the heat of summer is beginning to abate. And as it does, life, with all its activity starts to ratchet up. So it goes with life in the Sonoran desert.

I want to take a moment, before I get to my news and wish all my Jewish readers Leshana Tovah! May the New Year be a happy and healthy one for you and your family.

Also, I’m sure you’ve noticed the cool new format of this missive. I’m working on spreading the word about Poles Apart and the classes I offer and have found a cool new way to do it. Please help me out by forwarding this newsletter to anyone you know who a) enjoys a good book (hey, all the reviews and awards can’t be wrong); and b) is interested in learning to write.

Here’s What’s Happening:

  • My appearance on Adoption Angles was great fun! Melissa, the host, made it a wonderful experience and we gave away two copies of Poles Apart! The winners are enjoying it as we speak! If adoption is a topic that interests you be sure to check out Adoption Angles.
  • I’m going to be featured as guest blogger on the site of author Mike Angley. For those of you who haven’t read Mike, he’s a retired Air Force Colonel and suspense author. The interview will be up on September 17th and you can find it here.
  • Yelp Phoenix has selected Poles Apart as their October read. If you’re a Yelper and are interested in participating, check out the event.
  • I’m very excited to tell you that I’ve been interviewed for a network of Australian papers! I guess I’m truly going global. Sylvia Massara, the author/journalist who conducted the interview, is syndicated in twenty-four online papers and is expanding to print. I’ll post the link as soon as the article is up. So stay tuned!
  • Due to numerous requests, I’m going to be making my highly regarded workshop, LifeStories – Memoir Writing available virtually. Plans are still in the works as to format but IT IS COMING! The workshop was well received by participants when I taught it in Boston and is equally well received here in the valley of the sun. If you know anyone who is interested in learning to write their memoir, please forward this newsletter to them. I’ll update everyone as more info is available.

I hope all is well with you as we move in to autumn. Even though I can’t enjoy the colors of the maples and oaks it’s still my favorite season. Feel free to send pictures my way if you should see a particularly good example of color. It’ll bring my eastern roots a little closer.

Meanwhile, take care. And let me know how you’re doing.

The Five Minute Diva

January 7

I keep threatening that when my book is published I’m going to become a real diva … for five minutes. I figure that’s as long as I’d be able to stand myself. But with publication imminent I’ve been trying to figure out how to do the diva thing and I’m lost.

When the first galley came and it was fraught with errors I thought that would be the perfect time to be a diva. I could stomp and scream about how these problems were screwing up my ego extravaganza. In fact, I was just gearing up, upon finding the sixth problem, when a colleague smiled and said, “you know we’ll laugh about this someday.” I protested that it was not that day. She agreed and suggested I wait. That was it. The moment was gone. I was successfully de-diva’d.

I’ve been thinking about my diva plan ever since. I’m trying to find a way to make it work but I’m having a lot of trouble. I mean,what better opportunity would there have been than when things were so screwed up. But as I wait for the new galley to arrive I can’t seem to muster up the ego. Maybe when the error-free galley is in my hands and I can announce the book to the world … but I doubt it.

The truth is I rarely focus on me, me, me – though as much as I’ve worked lately my family might disagree. I tend to focus on others, on mentoring – I’m big on karma. I know how incredibly lucky I am. I get to stay home with my kids, work on my dream and have a husband who supports me and applauds every success. Ditto my daughters. I’ve had amazing mentors and incredible colleagues who’ve made my way easier. Doesn’t seem right to lord it over everyone. Seems a better use of my time to be there for others.

As I drum my nails on the desk, willing the new galley to arrive, I still mull over my desire to be a five minute diva. I guess when it gets here I’ll see what I can come up with. Maybe if I got a pedestal and a tiara …

So You Want A Sugar-Mama?

December 28

(originally posted November 26, 2009)

Let me tell you about my husband, Jim. He wants a Sugar-Mama and I think he’s earned it.

Sixteen years ago I took a four month leave to have our first child, Emma. It was a joyous time until I started exploring daycare options. What I discovered was that the people in the “baby rooms” of the local daycare facilities were overburdened and the children that got the most attention were the noisiest and most demanding. Emma was a really good baby; I was afraid she’d never get any attention. And for that privilege we were about to part with a high percentage of my salary. So Jim and I assessed our situation, decided to do without … well, everything and he said, “stay home.” He’s borne all the financial responsibility for our family ever since.

When our younger daughter, Abby, arrived thirteen years ago, I began to write professionally. Writing has a long apprenticeship, especially when you’re trying to squeeze it in during naps and after bedtime. Through the exhaustion of two small children and an unpaid pipe dream of glory my husband supported me, cheering every success. And with each corporate move he was determined that I let him handle more of that settling-in so I could get my writer’s groups up and running and get back to the novel I set aside. Through these many years I’ve honed my craft, published numerous essays and short stories, won six awards and written two novels.

We celebrated our twenty-first anniversary in June, our blackjack anniversary, and I’ve been feeling very lucky. After all these years of working I’m on the cusp of realizing my dreams. Excited though I am, I keep thinking about Jim. He made it possible for me to pursue my dreams. He’s been an amazing support. He believed in me when I ran out of belief in myself. He never wavered. He just keeps saying he’s waiting for me to succeed so I can be his sugar-mama.

So Jimmy, with success on the horizon, I’m using this very public forum to tell you how grateful I am and how absolutely incredible you are. I am soooo going to be your sugar-mama!

Deb Lupnacca
November 28, 2009 at 4:55 am

Love this ! Great thoughts.

Christopher Moore Totally Gets Me

December 28

(originally posted October 2, 2009)

It’s funny, too, because he doesn’t actually know me.  But a while back he said, as I’ve mentioned before, “Being an Author is a complete cycle of “I’m a piece of crap/I’m the king of the universe” that oscillates on a minute-by-minute basis.”  So, like I said, he totally gets me.  That statement is an accurate description of my life these past few … well for a long time but especially these past few weeks.

When I started sending out queries in an attempt to secure representation I was completely logical about it – or as logical as I get, anyway.  I understand this business, I know how it works, my eyes are open to the reality of the process, blah, blah, blah.  The true reality is that impatience sets in quickly, which is a direct path to Christopher Moore’s prescient understanding of where I’d end up.

One of the first queries I sent was to an agent in the west that I respect.  She’s notoriously picky.  Within twenty-four hours she asked me for a partial (meaning a limited number of pages for you non-writers).  I was ecstatic, but still a realist.  I remember telling my husband that even if she doesn’t offer representation she has framed my entire experience more positively because my first response was good.  Yeah, that was two weeks ago.

Since then, I’ve received her rejection, two other rejections and one other request for a partial from an agent with a prestigious  New York firm.  Besides that, nothing.  Now, I understand the reality, which is that it’s way too soon to hear.  And I also understand that on the strength of a one page letter, half the initial responses have been positive, which is huge.  Doesn’t stop my minute by minute oscillations, though.  Doesn’t even slow them down.

Hopefully, I’ll find another quote, from another author who’s been where I am, that helps me keep things in perspective.  In the meantime, for any editors who happen upon this post, I offer this quote from Erle Stanley Gardner, “It’s a damn good story.  If you have any comments, write them on the back of a check.”

The Voices In My Head

December 28

(originally posted September 24, 2009)

It’s happening again.  At first I tried to ignore it; I wasn’t ready.  But they will not be silenced.

There are voices in my head.  Again.  At first it’s  just one, Marcy.  She whispers enticingly, trying to get my attention.  She keeps trying to tell me about herself – where she came from, where she’s going, what her hopes and dreams are.  I put my hands over my ears, utterly ineffective when the voice is on the inside.

I guess she got frustrated at being ignored because she brought reinforcements.  People come out of the woodwork trying to get me to pay attention.  Next thing I know, her father is speaking up on her behalf.  I didn’t even know she had a father!  They trot out the three kids, maybe hoping for some “mom to mom” sympathy.

“Hey,” I shout, “I’m trying to take some time off.”  I sit down with my copy of Elmore Leonard’s The Hot Kid and, defiantly, read the next chapter aloud.  Does no good whatsoever.  I throw the book across the room.  Sorry Elmore.

“What do you want?”  I demand.  “What’s your deal?”

Suddenly Marcy and her gang of phantoms are silent.

“Well?”  I ask again.  “Tell me what you want.”

“I can’t,” she responds.  “I have to show you.  You have to come with us.”

I try to tell her that I need a break, that I want to read for pleasure for a change.  She says I can bring my book along – she seems to approve of the choice – but tells me I won’t have a lot of freedom to read.  It’s time, she tells me.

So I grab the book and head back to my office, resigned to my fate.  It’s time to start another novel.

81,187 Words Later

December 28

(originally posted July 28, 2009)

The process of trying to shepard a novel through the sale/publication process is fascinating. But that’s an academic assessment made by someone who has never done it before. It’s also frustrating, agonizing, daunting, likely foolhardy and, hopefully, rewarding.

Christopher Moore once said, “Being an Author is a complete cycle of ‘I’m a piece of crap/I’m the king of the universe’ that oscillates on a minute-by-minute basis.” Nowhere is that sentiment more true then in this part of the process. The highs and lows come so quickly that your head becomes a spinning top, most closely resembling Linda Blair in The Exorcist. 81,187 words later, I find myself having no choice but to move past the manuscript and on to phase two: The Query.

In this stage I write a one page letter to an agent (they can occasionally be two but brevity is rewarded). An agent/author relationship is a funny thing; the agent works for you but you’d dance with the devil to get a good agent to let you hire them. But back to the letter. I have somewhere between a nano-second and five words to wow the agent, totally mesmerizing her or him into begging to read my entire novel before the sun sets that very day. Now, to put this in perspective, Kurt Vonegut was rejected more than 800 times before he was published. And he was Kurt Vonegut the entire time. How different would our cultural discourse be without him? I can’t even think about it. Hopefully, inspired by Kurt’s determination, I whip out a brilliant query letter. On to phase three: The Synopsis.

In the synopsis I get a full five pages (sometimes more, sometimes less) to tell the agent the entire plot of my novel — including the ending. That’s right, it’s like Cliff’s Notes for the time-challenged. Not only do I have to condence 448 pages down to five, but I have to be riveting, show the agent my writing style and the tone of the book and, oh yeah, it better be damn good. Every time I’ve ever accomplished this I’ve celebrated with a simulated wrist-slitting. Once that’s done it’s on to phase four: The Approach.

This is the part I’m looking most forward to. Here’s where I send my obviously pithy query (with or without my brilliantly riveting synopsis, as they command) to agent after agent after agent. These days many agents take e-queries, so that, at least, cuts down on the expense. But it certainly doesn’t save me from having minute pieces of my soul dug out of me with a dull spoon. I’ve been published so I’ve had rejection. Lots. Some have been complimentary. The worst told me to study craft and then compared me to Faulkner, Kipling and London. Go figure. I can’t wait to see what new forms of rejection I’ll receive. I’m thick-skinned so I can handle this process. Especially because at the end I know, I just know, beyond all doubt, that I’m going to get a letter offering representation. And then the craziness begins anew.

Aiding & Abeting

December 28

(originally posted July 12, 2009)

I recently spoke with a woman I know.  She’s older, in her seventies, and likely as right-brained as I.  For the time I’ve know her she’s been writing a book. It’s a thriller but it’s loosely based on her experiences during the war. She tells me she’s nearly done.

“It’s about 400 pages,” she says.

“Good length,” I reply.

“Yes,” says she, “it’s 190,000 words.”

Imagine my horror! 190,000 words is more than double what the publishing industry wants to see.  But as I’m trying to decide what to say next it dawns on me that the math isn’t right.  And then I ask the question I regret as soon as the words escape my lips, “that isn’t single-spaced, is it?”

The next twenty minutes are a debate.  On my end we’re discussing what the industry is looking for – font, spacing, word count – and how she can get her manuscript where it needs to be.  From her perspective the only topic is her desire to add her name to a laundry list of writers who have put out very long books,  J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and of course, Stephen King.  She is oblivious to the notion that these cash-cows could write a phone book and their publishers wouldn’t bat an eye.

I have mentored a number of novice writers over the years.  It can be pain or pleasure, depending on their attitude going in.  But with this particular writer, who I adore, I wound up telling her that the rules are only true until they aren’t, i.e. that if she’s determined to try she could, possibly, succeed.

Now, the reality is that I know she probably won’t.  But she didn’t want to hear how to fix things.  She wanted me to tell her that she’s the exception, which I won’t do.  I don’t think there’s nobility in telling someone what they want to hear if you believe it to be untrue.  But I also don’t find grace in forcing my advice on to someone who clearly doesn’t want it.  The situation leaves me stuck between the proverbial rock and it’s cousin, the hard place.

What is my point, you may ask?  Well, airing frustration comes to mind.  But more importantly I suppose, is a caution to the novice writer:  you are not Stephen King.  You may well have great talent coupled with high hopes and aspirations but in 2009, publishing is all about big business.  You need to follow the rules, at least most of them, to achieve success.  We all do it.  We decide where we won’t compromise and then we compromise everywhere else.

As for Stephen King, I met him once — at Harvard.  Nice guy.  I’m sure he doesn’t remember me.  But once upon a time he paid his dues, just as we’re paying ours.  Just as those we mentor will pay theirs.  And you know, I kind of like it that way.

Audrey Wyatt, right-brained to a fault, has worked in various arts – most notably acting, teaching and creating children’s theater curricula. Now a fiction writer, she bases her novels, short stories and even a television sitcom on her experiences and culture. Her stories often feature strong-willed, quirky women. Audrey’s novel, Poles Apart, has been honored with five awards and her essays and short fiction have been published in various forums, both print and online.  For a full list of Audrey’s credits as well as links to her work, check out her Bibliography.

Always one to foster aspiring artists, Audrey founded Southeast Valley Fiction Writers near Phoenix, Arizona, and Bay State Writers in Southeast Massachusetts. She is a founding partner in LitSisters and LitSisters Publishing. She also created and teaches workshops on Creative Writing and Memoir Writing.

Audrey has enjoyed living all over the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  She currently makes her home in Los Angeles with her incredible husband, their two terrific daughters, and their beagle-basset mix, the Artful Dodger.

To contact Audrey RL Wyatt, please email audrey@audreyrlwyatt.com

Awards, Accomplishments & Publications

Novel, Poles Apart, Third Place in Alabama Writer’s Conclave Annual Competition, 2009

Novel, Poles Apart, Honorable Mention in Frontiers in Writing Annual Contest, 2009

Humor, My Big Fat Hillbilly Wedding, published on You Tube by Folded Word Press in Shape of a Heart, 2009

Founder, Southeast Valley Fiction Writers, 2008

Essay, Inevitability of Time, published in Motherwords, Issue 3, 2008

Essay, Ticket to Ride, published by Survivor’s Review Volume XI, 2008

Fiction, The Box, published in Conceit Magazine, 2008

Novel, Poles Apart, Honorable Mention in the Ft. Bend Writer’s Guild 25th Annual Novel Contest, 2008

Essay, The Inevitability of Time, published in Conceit Magazine, 2008

Essay, Ticket to Ride, Honorable Mention in Write Helper, 2008

Essay, Inevitability of Time, can be seen in the anthology, Silver Boomers, published by Silver Boomer Books, 2008

Novel, Poles ApartSecond Place in The Sandy, Crested Butte Writers Conference Annual Contest, 2007

Essay, Dear Mothers, can be seen in the anthology, Letters To My Mother published by Adams Media, 2007

Fiction, The Box, published by Long Story Short, 2007

Humor, My Big Fat Hillbilly Wedding, published by Long Story Short, 2007

Novel, Poles Apart, Semi-Finalist in the international Summer Literary Seminars annual fiction contest, 2006

Founder, Bay State Writers, 2005

Cami Butler Memorial Writing Scholarship, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, 2004

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