May 26, 2005

salamander girls and some advice of my own

A Good Night for Salamander Girls

Last night I attended a reading in Canning, Nova Scotia. Harrison Wright launched his first book, a memoir called Probing Minds, Salamander Girls and a Dog Named Sally. (Although a little late, I managed to sneak in and get a seat right in front of the author.)Local artist, Ron Hayes' gallery, The Art Can, was packed with people waiting to hear the newest voice from Gaspereau Press.

What a voice it is! Harrison's images are clear, his storytelling engaging and humourous. Most wonderful of all is that for every bit of laughter he conjured up, there were equal parts of head noddding and thoughtful silence...all of us caught in moments where the author had touched on the truth. His truth became ours.

I've been a long-time fan of Gaspereau Press and everything they stand for. Congratulations Harrison and GP!

It was a lovely evening all around, a chance to reconnect with old friends and to make some new ones. Ron is always a gracious host (and always with a tray of delicious food nearby). He's doing great things there at the Art Can...Canning and the surrounding communities are lucky he's decided to call this place home.

I'll Add My Two Cents

Now that I've had a few months as a reader for TAR under my belt,I wanted to add my voice to Richard Cumyn's entry and give a few lit mag sumbission tips of my own.

1. Cover letters DO matter. They set the tone for what's to come. A simple letter, free of typos, stating relevant experience (I don't want to know that you wrote the user manual for Widgets Inc. ten years ago) is a good start. If it's your first stab, that's fine...but don't tell me you haven't had luck getting the thing accepted anywhere else and that we're your last hope. (Honest to Pete, I don't make this stuff up.)

2. Make certain there's a story there. I know it sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many submissions I've read where I can't find a solid story. It goes along with Richard's 'hook'. The narrative has to pull the reader through to the end. No sagging, no extra baggage or tangents that might cause the reader to pause or put the thing down. An atmospheric description of your Uncle Willie looking out the window for five hours at a fire plug that's no longer there, isn't a story. (Unless you make it one... unless you give the fire plug a history with Uncle Willie, you remeber the day the fire plug burst open and killed his wife, you wrap it all up with an ending that brings it home for all readers.)

3. Along those same lines...don't sacrifice the story for what you consider 'good writing'. I find that a lot of writers are trying too hard write lyric, (bordering on purple) prose. Trust me, I can spot this a mile a way. I've been known to be guilty of it myself. (My dear partner, and first reader politely calls this my way of 'warming up'. What he's really trying to say is, "if you have to write this gooey crap to get yourself started, be sure to throw it out before I read it.") Put the thesaurus away and get to the point. Once you've got the bones of your piece laid out, then you can go back and find ways to enrich it. If you go for the florid descriptions from the start, you'll often find yourself lost in it and your readers will just find themselves lost.

4. Read your work out loud. Again, a simple solution, but one that works. It's a little awkward at first to listen to yourself read, but I promise you, you'll find a whole new level to your writing if you do. The ear can catch things that your eye cannot. We're built to listen for beauty, for rhythm, for what sounds right.
Lock yourself in the bathroom and read to yourself. You'll thank me for it later.

3 comments:

Rob in Victoria said...

"Although a little late, I managed to sneak in and get a seat right in front of the author."

LOL

In my lengthy, though somewhat specialized, experience, that's actually the easiest seat to get. In a standing-room-only in-store event, the seat in front of the author, if not the whole front row, will be empty.

M.B.S. said...

I love reading your blog, Ami! Just letting you know I'm here...

Also, I'm thoughtfully pondering your comment on starting off purple. The gut story just has to be there. Sometimes I forget about that.

crissachappell said...

Yeah...people hate sitting in the front row!