Good News from Israel (For a Change): Got My HarperCollins Contract for My Novel, A Remarkable Kindness

There may or may not be a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. But you want to know what is definite?

My novel, A Remarkable Kindness.

Here is a photo of the contract from HarperCollins Publishers signed and stamped by them and by me! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Along with that, I got an email from the William Morrow editor at HarperCollins, Rachel Kahan, with notes for me on how to revise the novel.

Here’s an embarrassing fact. Well, why not get it out in the open?

Rachel told me: The word “said” appears 1566 times in a 385 pp manuscript, which is far too many.

Who’dathunkit?

So, writers, here’s what Rachel says: “In a lot of cases, you don’t need “said” at all—it’s enough to show what the characters are doing or how they’re saying something. If the dialogue and action are clean and in context, you shouldn’t need to say “he said” all that often because it’s understood who is speaking and it’s not necessary to draw attention to the fact that they’re speaking. There are also plenty of instances where you can substitute a different verb for “said” that will give context and color to the way characters are behaving or speaking; those improve the scene and cut down on the repetition of “said.”

 She is totally right. Going through the book, I see that I am down to 836 “said’s” and I’m still deleting. Yikes!

Her viewpoint goes against Stephen King who, in his fabulotastic book, On Writing, said, (and I’m paraphrasing), do not say, exclaimed or shouted or chuckled but said. Go figure.

Here’s a totally wonderfully utterly terrific fact. Rachel also wrote, “I so enjoyed re-reading this and found it even more affecting the second time around—I never fail to tear up at the end, and I don’t tear up too often when I read! It’s that good!”

So, folks, get ready for A REMARKABLE KINDNESS, due out in July 2015!

What do you all think of the title? It went from THE DEAD CAN NEVER THANK YOU to THE WOMEN’S BURIAL CIRCLE to A REMARKABLE KINDNESS. The novel is about the intertwined lives of four American friends who are members of a traditional Jewish society and prepare dead women for burial in a small beach village in Israel. 

Final fact: Writing feels like walking down a long long road. But I kept walking and walking and working and writing and I didn’t give up. Refused to give up. So, if you’re writing something or creating something or dreaming of something, keep doing it. Do not give in to those voices that tell you what you’re writing is silly or bad. Just keep on. I told myself, if you give up, you will never forgive yourself.

IF YOU GIVE UP, YOU WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOURSELF.

The long road leading to my village, Shavei Zion, in Western Galilee, Israel. It's a peaceful sunny day, Hamas wasn't shooting at us. Hezbollah has, though. Katyusha rockets landed in the field on the left in 2006.

The long road leading to my village, Shavei Zion, in Western Galilee, Israel. It’s a peaceful sunny day, Hamas wasn’t shooting at us. Hezbollah has, though. Katyusha rockets landed in the field on the left in 2006.

Posted in Being a Hero In Your Life, miracles, Writers, Writing | 14 Comments

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and Speaking the Truth

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

OK, so what does the Israel-Arab conflict have to do with living our best chapter? Everything. Because it’s about living our truth and not being afraid to speak up for what we believe in.

I came across Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s one-sided, lopsided, naïve plea to Israel that “Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other; to understand their interdependence. Missiles, bombs and crude invective are not part of the solution. There is no military solution.”

Tell that to Islamic terrorists now operating around the world.

Yes, all of us living in Israel would love to lay down our arms and seek peace. We’d love not to send our children to war. We’d love not to have to build bomb shelters. We’d love for the Palestinians to agree to a peace accord in which Israel is allowed to remain a Jewish, democratic country. Will that happen? Well, let’s look at what’s happening in the real world.

Tragically, Tutu confuses Islamic terrorists with freedom fighters in South Africa. But Islamic terrorists (who provoked this war) are not freedom fighters but fighters for an Islamic state which denies freedom. Which is totalitarian, anti-civil rights, and anti-everything that Tutu stands for.

Let’s talk about Tutu’s preposterous idea that Israel is an “apartheid” state. That is absurd! So dangerous and wrong and a lie. Here’s an article about a Christian Arab woman elected to the Knesset, Israel’s governing body.

Here’s my article in the Huffington Post on diversity in Israel. (There’s more interactions among various religions than I ever encountered living in the USA)

And about the valedictorian at Israel’s top medical school.

This is apartheid:

saudi good

Tutu writes about Israeli military attacks, but for the record, British Colonel Richard Kemp said the Israeli Army has  made more attempts to avoid civilian casualties “than any other army in the history of warfare.”

What would happen if the Arab countries laid down their arms and declared peace? Israel would help build a flourishing, lively, vibrant, artistic, strong, democratic region. What would happen if Israel laid down its arms? We would be destroyed by Hezbollah, IS fighters and Hamas and Iranian-backed terrorists.

It’s what happened when Israel pulled out of Southern Lebanon in 2000. As soon as Israel left, Hezbollah terrorists backed by Iran (there is no other name for an organization with Naim Qassem, a leader, who says, “There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel.”

What about Hamas and its view of peace? Its charter states, “There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”

So, is Tutu suggesting that Israel tries to make peace with people who don’t even believe in making peace with Israel?

I am all for a Palestine state to flourish in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel.

Israel has consistently tried to make peace with its neighbors. The truth is that Arab countries don’t really care about returning to the 1967 borders. They care about returning to the 1947 borders—with no Israel. So, speaking out against Israel without mentioning or addressing this fact is dishonest.

Speaking of Iran, in the years since Iran became an Islamic State, what has it done to contribute to the world? Can anyone name one positive thing? One artistic achievement? One small step for womankind? One scientific contribution for something beyond its nuclear aims? And why doesn’t Tutu and other peace-seekers speak out when the Iran announces it will wipe Israel off the map? It’s all too reminiscent of the way world leaders reacted to Hitler, the man who couldn’t possibly mean that he wants to really kill Jews, the man with the funny mustache.

I could go on and on. Speaking up for Israel now is taking a brave stand against Islamic terrorists who, as Geerts Wilder points out, will take over Europe and turn all of Christian western society into a medieval wasteland. It’s happening already.

My question is this: why can there be 238 Christian countries and 48 Muslim countries? Look at the Swiss flag.

Switzerland flag with a cross, in case you didn't notice.

Switzerland flag with a cross, in case you didn’t notice.

Now here’s the Pakistan flag.

Pakistan, with Islamic symbols.

Pakistan, with Islamic symbols.

So why are Jews not allowed to have their own country?

It ain't just a symbol on a flag, I guess.

It ain’t just a symbol on a flag, I guess.

Israel for the record guarantees Arabs more freedom and civil rights than any Muslim country in the world. (Especially Muslim women!)

Tutu and other naive leaders who have fallen prey to the red-green alliance (the alliance of leftists with totalitarian Islamic movements) won’t say the Z word. Zionism means believing that Jews, like others in other national movements, have the right to self-determination and to have a Jewish, democratic state. Leftists won’t accept Zionism as a nationalist movement. They’ll say that they’re against being “anti-Jews” but they’re anti-Zionist, which, when you come down to it, is the same thing.

And why isn’t Tutu and others speaking out against the injustice within Gaza? The 160 children who were used as slave laborers to build the tunnels and died? The Christians who live in utter fear there? Why does he overlook the Hamas charter which calls on Israel’s destruction? And not just calling for a Palestine side by side with Israel but an eradication of Israel?

Why are there no rallies against the ISIS (now known as IS) murderers executing people?

z 20140613_ISIS8

Because…? Why no outrage over the 5-year-old Christian boy cut in half by Isis terrorists?

I know Israel is not a perfect country – no country is. But please, if you’re going to speak out to help Israel out of this quagmire, then speak out to leaders around the world to stop Islamic organizations from destroying any chance of peace. Archbishop Tutu, Israel is not South Africa. Hezbollah and Hamas and Iran and Afghanistan and Iraq and Saudi Arabia, etc. etc. are South Africa. Bring about peace by telling Islamic leaders what you told Israel,

“The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.”

Living our best chapter: Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, “Some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”

Posted in Anger | 9 Comments

On Hamas Missiles, Motorcycles, and the Lost Summer of Rock & Roll in Israel

Mick Jagger in Concert 2014

Mick Jagger in Concert 2014 Getty Images

Long time no write…Tough to concentrate on living our best chapter when it feels like the world is collapsing all around us. Here’s my article in The Wall Street Journal about life in a war zone.

Moving Targets in Israel

My my, hey, hey is Mideast war here to stay?

By

DIANA BLETTER
July 29, 2014 3:04 p.m. ET

Shavei Zion, Israel

On the 14th day of this war between Hamas and Israel, my husband Jonny and I had business in Tel Aviv, about 80 miles from our village in northern Israel. We wanted to avoid traffic so we rode on Jonny’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

As we approached Tel Aviv, bomb sirens sounded, coming from all directions around us. The sirens meant we had about 30 seconds to seek shelter from rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip. Immediately, all along the highway, drivers pulled over to the right side of the road, turned off their cars, jumped out and crouched with their arms over their heads or lay down on their stomachs.

“Pull over!” I shouted from under my helmet. But Jonny—who served in the Israel Defense Forces in the Golani Brigade, the elite unit that lost 13 soldiers on the first day of this war Israel calls “Protective Edge”—continued riding.

“It’s safer to be a moving target!” he shouted back to me.

We rode through that siren and then another. Missiles fell, but that time, there were no casualties. We reached Tel Aviv safely. Has this kind of life become the new normal?

It doesn’t seem possible that only a few weeks ago, I was standing in a crowd of more than 50,000 people in a Tel Aviv park, listening to the Rolling Stones perform a sold-out concert. At the time, I thought that Israel had somehow made it, that we’d finally been accepted as just another stop on a rock-and-roll tour. Jonny and I even had plans to go with four of our six children to a Neil Young concert scheduled for mid-July. That concert, of course, was cancelled soon after the war began. “And it was supposed to be a summer of rock-and-roll,” my son Ari said.

Instead it’s the summer of a war that reminds me again of the fragility of peace in the Middle East. All around us, there’s more instability than the region has seen in decades. Countries such as Syria have turned into raging maelstroms. The Rolling Stones’s tour this summer was billed as 14 stops in 2014, or “14 on Fire.” On fire, indeed.

Since the start of the war, several rockets have landed near our village, launched from Lebanon 12 miles away. For the moment, there’s relative quiet. But the war has cast a shadow of fear, hopelessness and sorrow on this start-up nation. As the director of a small summer camp in our village, one of the first things I had to do with the children was hold a bomb drill.

“If the sirens go off, then we’ll all go in here,” I explained to the kids in the cheeriest voice I could muster. Then the other counselors and I herded them all into the closest bomb shelter. It’s a dark, dreary room. It’s a room that was used around the clock during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. It’s a room that quickly unravels the myth that Israel is aggressive, mighty and strong.

There’s really no place in the country that feels safe anymore. Homeowners drawing up plans to build new houses must now, by law, include a bomb shelter with one-and-a-half foot thick walls made from concrete and reinforced steel, which jacks up the price of construction by at least $20,000. People grumble about it but they have no choice.

Most days, I take Israel’s version of reality in stride. It’s part of my daily life, the way people in San Francisco deal with the threat of earthquakes. But somehow, with Islamic State fighters invading Syria and beheading people, and Iran’s leaders still threatening to wipe Israel off the map, and with critics of Israel growing more and more vociferous and belligerent about our right to defend ourselves, the threats against us seem more and more real.

For the first time since I moved here in 1991, I feel genuinely shaken. I don’t know how this latest conflict will end. Or will it never end at all?

Ms. Bletter is the author of “The Mom Who Took Off on Her Motorcycle” (Kent & Cordell, 2013). Her next book, “A Remarkable Kindness,” is forthcoming from HarperCollins in 2015.

Be real cautious believing everything you read about what’s happening in the Gaza Strip war. Here are some articles about how reporters are being intimidated from telling the truth.

 

Posted in Thought For The Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

While Bombs Fall On the Start-Up Nation: How To Keep On Keepin’ On

children in israelWe interrupt this blog to report on the war that Hamas is waging against Israel. (Do not be deceived that it is the other way around.)

What other country warns people that they should leave their houses because a bomb will fall? None, except Israel. And what happens? Hamas uses their own people, including women and children, as human shields, prohibiting them from leaving so that they can use photos of the victims as proof that Israel is waging a war against the innocent.

As of now, more than 360 rockets have been fired into Israel in three days. If hundreds of rockets fell on Washington, DC and San Francisco, would the United States not respond?

rockets

 

OK. But this blog is about living and writing our best chapter. So, to keep with that theme, here is the question: How do you live well in the war zone, or in any zone not of your liking?

Here are 5 thoughts to inspire you, calm you down, and make you put your life into perspective:

“The world is not a wish-granting factory,” says the wonderful narrator, Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault in Our Stars. Wish it weren’t true, but alas, tis so.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. White, author of one of my top-favorite books, Charlotte’s Web.

“There is no situation too difficult to be bettered and no unhappiness to great to be lessened.” We can find something to see, smell, touch or hear to make our day a bit brighter. Or someone else’s day. Is there someone you can visit to sprinkle a little joy?

Keep your head where your feet are. Stay in the present. Don’t jump ahead into that terribly frightening future void.

Worrying about terrible things that might come to pass won’t make it any easier. We can concentrate on feeling strong, centered and grateful so that if those terrible things do come to pass, we will be prayed up and ready.

Ask yourself, if they were making a movie about your life and you are the hero, how would you act? We can remind ourselves that we are each a hero in our own life story, and sometimes we have to slay our own dragons. (That idea is courtesy of Marian McConnell, author of Emergence.)

For further information on Israel, check out debka which has breaking news. Also, if you have been hearing about Israel and apartheid, read this booklet for the truth about who is sponsoring apartheid (gender and religious) around the world. (Spoiler: Islamic countries, not Israel).

And you would think that after all these centuries, humans would have figured out how to resolve conflicts without war. So every time we are in a potential conflict, let’s do our best to bring it down, instead of making things worse.

Posted in Thought For The Day, Your Best Chapter | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

One Way to Get a Happy Ending? Write a Novel, Says Reuters Journalist Dan Williams.

I’m happy to welcome Reuters Journalist Dan Williams, based in Jerusalem, who has just self-published his novel, Strip Mine.

Diana Bletter: Strip Mine is your first published book starring an unflappable heroine, Jodie Moore, a Mossad agent, who tackles nothing less than global jihad. The novel is set in the Middle East, where you live and work. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got the idea for this book?

Dan Williams: Back in 2002, I was covering the Israeli siege of Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. At one point, a group of foreign pro-Palestinian activists, in quite a dizzying show of solidarity, burst through the military cordon and managed to get into the sanctuary. One of my colleagues joked that there might be Israeli spies among them. That idea stayed with me, and provided the back-story for Jodie’s induction into the intelligence world. I later came upon the idea of Israel and Hamas, though locked in their own conflict, finding themselves aligned against the common threat of the nihilistic and catastrophic violence championed by Al Qaida. “My enemy’s enemy, etc.” has abiding appeal.

Diana Bletter: You are a journalist, now for Reuters. How do you think your career has helped you in your writing, and how did you take the leap into fiction?

Dan Williams: Journalism affords excellent opportunities for first-hand experience, be it in meeting decision-makers or witnessing major events. That’s obvious grist for fiction. But much of the mechanics of fiction involves contrivances that, in my experience, seldom occur in reality – conspiracies, coincidences, convenient story arcs and (dare I say it?) happy endings. So, over time, I’ve found that fiction was the right depository for the imaginings that might arise while I was reporting – the stuff that might otherwise have been left on the cutting-room floor of my mind, as it were.

Diana Bletter: You’ve self-published Strip Mine. Do you have any thoughts about self-publishing that you can share? Any suggestions for aspiring self-publishing writers? Are you pursuing traditional publishing as well?

Dan Williams: I’d be very happy to see Strip Mine picked up by a traditional publisher. But self-publishing has been satisfactory, so far. The Amazon Kindle service is exceptionally easy, and there’s a crucial advantage in terms of contemporaneity: The book’s out within minutes of you hitting the button. By contrast, even the best traditional publishing deal will means waiting long months until the book hits the market. That’s a problem when you’re writing about current events in a place as geopolitically changeable as the Middle East. 

Diana Bletter: You live in Jerusalem, where not a day goes by without something happening for you to report on. With a spouse and three children, everyone wants to know: how do you possibly find the time to write? Can you tell us a bit about your writing style? Did you know the end of your novel before you got there? Can you tell us about the next book in your Jodie Moore series?

Dan Williams: It’s all about plotting. Once the story is planned out, then the writing schedule should fall into place. With thrillers, I find that the structure works in reverse, as you must know the denouement in order to unspool it to toward the disparate beginnings of the story. Yes, finding the time is not easy when there are other obligations. But consider this: If you manage just a page a day, then by year’s end you should have a decent manuscript in hand. As for Jodie’s next adventure: Afghanistan, Iran, Kurdistan.

Diana Bletter: Finally, www.thebestchapter.com explores how to write your best chapter and also how to live your best chapter each day in the story of your life.   Is there something you do to take care of yourself each day?

Dan Williams: Jog, joke with my kids, and watch some quality television with my wife.

Thank you so much, Dan! You can follow him @DanWilliams for breaking news.

Dan Williams’ writer’s tip: “If you manage just a page a day, then by year’s end you should have a decent manuscript in hand.”

You can buy an e-copy of Dan Williams’ spy thriller, Strip Mine, at amazon. And while you’re at it, pick up your The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle, too!

Posted in Writers, Writing, Your Best Chapter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Country Where Muslim and Christian Arab Women Are Free: Israel.

The Arab girls next to me looked like they were having fun. I was sitting one palm frond hut away, trying to understand what they were saying in Arabic, a language I’ve been casually studying for the past few months. They wore tee-shirts and shorts, laughed a lot, went to play soccer and dove for goals in the sand, and then jumped into the turquoise water. They were on the beach…having fun…without male guardians…in Israel.

Having Fun on the Beach in Northern Israel. This is in Response to Islamic Fundamentalists Who Threaten Women's Freedom Around the World.

Having Fun on the Beach in Northern Israel. This is in Response to Islamic Fundamentalists Who Threaten Women’s Freedom Around the World.

What were Arab girls in Islamic-ruled countries doing, I wondered? Girls in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Egypt don’t have any kind of freedom to be on the beach with their friends…Islamic fundamentalists around the world have made women prisoners. In Iran, women who defend themselves against rapists are jailed, sometimes hung. In Darfur, Islamic fighters raped and slaughtered millions. Do not think that the genocide in Darfur was some vague African-African conflict. It is part of global jihad. Only in this small, democratic and Jewish country—Israel—that Muslim and Christian Arab women have any kind of freedom. Name any country headed by an Islamic regime, and you will find women hung (see Phyllis Chesler‘s bone-chilling article about women and children being hung in Iran here) are sequestered, enslaved, squandered, sold, secluded.

ISIS, a Sunni-offshoot of Al-Quaeda, has taken over one-tenth of Iraq; it is now reported here that there is a striking upsurge of violence against women there. Taliban is in power in Afghanistan, where girls are forbidden to even go to school. You can read about the Taliban against women in a report by the US State Department here.

There is no such thing in the world of Islam as civil discourse. The Sunnis and the Shiite, who are both Islamic, are killing one another in vast numbers. And if that is what they are doing to one another, just think of what they’ll do to Christians, Jews, and other non-believers. Islamic fundamentalists are the one single force threatening human civilization today. You can read Czech President Milos Zeman’s speech about this threat here.

Make no mistake, there is a reason to fear the rise of Islam around the world. There’s no “live and let live,” or let’s agree to disagree” in Shaaria law. If you look at Muslim countries, do you see advancement, openness, liberalism, democracy, arts, education, scientific research and contributions to the earth? No and no and no, again. Islamic fundamentalists are aiming to yank society back one thousand years, to a dark age.

You cannot make peace with totalitarians. Chamberlain tried to make concessions with Hitler thinking that it will appease Hitler, and soon thereafter Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia. Hitler squashed him completely. There is no compromise in Islam. Israel is not the problem. The settlements in the West Bank are not the thing standing in the way of the Palestinians and the Israelis reaching some kind of peace. The Islamic empire will not back down until there is no more Israel, period. (How come nobody says anything when Israelis are threatened with extinction?) Oh, and Islamic fundamentalists won’t stop here. They will continue until Jews and Christians are converted, killed or slaughtered.

So that was my relaxing day on the beach.

I was too busy thinking to really relax, however.

I was too busy thinking to really relax, however.

I took pictures with the girls. I want it on record that Israel, the country being boycotted by blinded, naïve people, is the only country in the Middle East where Arab girls are protected. (Though men are still killing their sisters in honor killings.) The world is under siege by Muslims and while it’s burning, the Metropolitan Opera in New York is putting on an anti-Semitic opera, “Klinghoffer,” glorifying the terrorism aboard the Achille Lauro Cruise Ship in 1985, and the murder of an elderly wheelchair-bound man, Leon Klinghoffer, whose only crime was that he was a Jew. The terrorists dumped his body overboard. And the terrorists are glorified. These are some of the lyrics: Wherever poor men / are gathered they can / find Jews getting fat / You know how to cheat / the simple, exploit / the virgin, pollute / Where you have exploited / Defame those you cheated / and break your own law / with idolatry.” Freedom of speech is one thing. Writing “Jews getting fat” is a typical anti-Semitic stereotype that is NOT art. It smacks of currying favor with the very same people who are threatening to take away society’s religious and civil liberties. Send protest letters to the Metropolitan Opera here.

Getting back to the beach, by the way, one of the girls had a tattoo on her arm, Only God Can Judge Me. That’s religious freedom. We have to do what we can to defend our religious liberties.  That means our freedom of expression and being allowed to write blogs like this. It is vital that we take a stand before it is too late.

 

Posted in Thought For The Day | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

1 Tool For Tuesday: DIY. Publish? Write? Start a Business? Travel?

This is how I felt at my literary agent's office in New York City.

This is how I felt at my literary agent’s office in New York City.

One of the biggest literary agencies on the planet represented me for my memoir, The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle. After my agent—I’ll call her Francesca—finished editing it and I’d made the revisions, she invited me into her office to meet her as well as another agent she worked with.

The agency was in New York City. Despite all my years working on filling my own well, I was superdoodled-down with meeting these two New York agents and having them pour a few choice compliments down my thirsty throat. What to wear? It was springtime and the flowers were blossoming. I chose a bright pink shirt, white pants and sandals.

But it was not a balmy spring day. By the time I got to their office, I was shivering. I rode the elevator straight up into the drippy clouds.

In the reception area, I saw books by famous writers and thought, I made it. I am in. I even heard the receptionist tell someone on the other end of the line, “I’m sorry, but if you haven’t heard from the agent, that means they are not interested in representing you.”  I couldn’t help but glow inside. Not from schadenfreude (gloating over someone else’s misfortune) but from the idea that I had passed the bouncer at the door. I was no longer that sorry person on the other end of the phone.

Then Francesca came to meet me. I hadn’t yet taken off my scarf. I was still freezing. And frumpled. I saw the disappointment cross her face. Francesca brought me into a back office and introduced me to the other agent who glanced in my direction and then said almost dismissively, “Oh, so you’re the motorcycle woman.” Oh, I was so NOT the motorcycle woman. I just happened to be a woman who rode on a motorcycle and then wrote a book about it. Plus, I now knew that my spring outfit on this dreary, dismal day was as inappropriate as Elle Woods wearing her bunny costume to her Harvard Law School party in “Legally Blonde.”

And those two women who I’d hoped would pump me up brought me down. No compliments. And no book contract.

For a while, I sat around singing the blues and kvetching about the state of publishing. Then I realized that accepting the situation would do for me far more than complaining, grousing, moaning and criticizing could ever accomplish. It didn’t mean I liked it but I had to accept it.

Then I decided to DIY-it. Do it yourself. And I published The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle, (on sale for $2.99 here) which has garnered media attention and has sold more than I ever imagined. And after that, I got a new literary agent and a new contract for my novel, The Burial Circle. (Or, I just learned, it might be called, Burial Circle.)

I learned, first of all, that there’s no magical someone out there to say the right words to fill that hole in my soul. It’s a DIY job.

And that if I want to get something done, I can take the steps to accomplish it.

Tool for Tuesday: FYI, DIY. You can, you know. You can do it yourself. You can find a way. You can tell yourself the things you are waiting to hear from someone else.

If you are considering self-publishing, contact me for some fast and easy tips to navigate the self-publishing world.

Posted in Acceptance, Self-publishing | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Writers: What’s The Nicest Rejection Letter from A Literary Agent You Ever Received?

The New Yorker's Rejection Letter to Sylvia Plath

The New Yorker’s Rejection Letter to Sylvia Plath

Calling all writers: what’s the nicest rejection letter from a literary agent you ever received? Or, for that matter, from a journal or newspaper?

I’ve gotten hundreds of rejections. First, there’s the kind that most editors practice these days. The “Your writing is stinkier than Blue Cheese, I don’t even have the time to write no thank you and hit send.” That is, people who don’t bother to write back. Not even an automatic reply. OK, some newspapers like The New York Times can justify that. “Due to the volume of submissions we receive, we can’t respond to every submission.” I’m sure Madonna has the same problem with people wanting one minute of her time. But check out the rejection letter she got here.

Then there’s the standard rejection letter. “Thank you so much for letting us read your work.” One of my writing friends, Ruth, said that if you get a rejection letter that says something like, “Please let us consider your work again,” that’s one step up. Ruth also said that some literary magazines won’t publish writers until they’ve submitted to them six or seven times. “Every rejection I get, I count that as one story closer to being published,” Ruth said.

Back in the day, if I got a handwritten scribble on a rejection note, I took it as a heavenly sign to keep writing.

For this round of submissions for my novel, The Burial Circle, I got about ten rejection letters of one form or another until I found my agent, Steven Chudney. A few weeks after Steven sold The Burial Circle to William Morrow/HarperCollins to be published in July 2015, (get out your pom-poms!) I got a rejection letter from an agent whom I had queried in December. She wrote:

Dear Diana,

Thank you for giving me the chance to read and consider your work. I apologize for the time it’s taken me to get back to you, I’m mortified about that. I’ve finally had the chance to read your pages. On the whole, I found your writing to be very engaging and the premise of the story interesting. However, I just did not feel that love-spark necessary for me to take on a project. In that regard, I don’t think I’m the best person to represent your manuscript.

Please don’t be disheartened. This is a purely subjective decision based on my own personal taste. I’m positive that someone else out there will find (or will have already found) your manuscript to be the very thing they’re looking for. So push forward and I wish you the very best of luck on this journey.

Sincerely,

Pooja Menon

Pooja Menon is a literary agent at Kimberley Cameron & Associates. You can check out their site here. Now, maybe this is her standard rejection letter. Maybe it’s “no” couched in flourishing, flowery, euphemistic terms (to disguise the “Don’t you dare send me your crap again”). But it was still endearing. If I hadn’t found another agent, chances are, I would have read her words thinking, yeah, yeah, sure.

The worst rejection I ever received was from a literary agent who left a big fat coffee stain on my manuscript and she didn’t even apologize. Really? Hey, writers don’t write so that you use our work for coasters! It’s the same way I felt when I saw an article I wrote in a newspaper ripped up and thrown into a neighbor’s fireplace.

Sometimes I feel like there's no better place for my writing than an Alaskan outhouse

Sometimes I feel like there’s no better place for my writing than an Alaskan outhouse

What’s the nicest rejection you ever received? The worst? And what made you keep on writing?

Posted in Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How to Stop Self-Pity: Tools From Helen Keller and Pope Francis

Even When Your Head is Deep Inside the Bowels of the Refrigerator, Rag in Hand, You can still find so many things to be grateful for.

Even When Your Head is Deep Inside the Bowels of the Refrigerator, Rag in Hand, You can still find so many things to be grateful for.

So there I was with my head in the refrigerator after spilling a bottle of homemade iced tea all over the place.

I went from feeling like a happygoluckyfella to Cinderella the moment I reached for a shmateh and started cleaning.

Went from feeling happy to the PLOM’s (Poor Little Old Me) faster than a Lamberghini can go from zero to 100 mph.

I shouldn’t be cleaning, I should be writing, I should have written more than I have, I should have done this…Done that. Ad infinitum. Actually, ad nauseum. (Whenever I throw in a Latin word or two, my IQ spikes five points.)

It’s the self-pity rush, and when it starts it’s hard to stop it. So here’s what we can do. Immediately.

The ABC Gratitude List. I start listing everything I have to be grateful for beginning with A and going to Z. Then I start focusing on everything that’s right in my life instead of what’s wrong.

How lucky am I to have a refrigerator? That got me thinking to women around the world who have no refrigeration or water. Then I thought of the girls in Nigeria who are being held hostage by Islamic extremists. Then I thought of the girls who were raped and hung in India. Pakistan. I’d send a protest letter to someone—anyone—who’d listen.

Then I thought of how to make my time spent in the refrigerator fun. I could turn it into something creative. I could laugh at myself. Thus, this blog’s message.

Set the egg-timer. You can have a pity party for five minutes. Then you can take action. There is no situation that can’t be bettered. When we think, why me? Well, why not you?

Self-pity is not sorrow. Grief is earned. You’ve been through terrible times. You are encouraged to fully feel sorrow. Self-pity is sorrow for ourselves and our lot in life. It is like holding a resentment. Helen Keller said it best:

Helen Keller on Self-Pity

Helen Keller on Self-Pity

Finally, I look for the spiritual lesson, and I found it: humility. I thought of Pope Francis who just visited Israel. He said that “it only through humility that the church can once again become a moral beacon in global affairs.” But we each can be a beacon just by being a power of example. Not complaining, getting the job done, and accepting and celebrating the overwhelmingly wonderful ordinary parts of life.

Pope Francis with Israeli President Shimon Peres

Pope Francis with Israeli President Shimon Peres

Here’s the message for Monday. Our minds can take us wherever we want to go. We can choose to sink in the darkness of self-pity or we can turn to face the sun.

What tools do you use?

 

Posted in Being a Hero In Your Life, Self-Talk, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Positive Acts Build Self-Esteem: Do the Small Things Well

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven if all you’re doing today is hanging up four sad socks (like this photo, taken in China) cleaning up the mess, sweeping the floor (again), changing diapers or flipping burgers, do the small things well.

That goes for your writing, too. Write fast and hard. Set your egg timer and force yourself to sit at your desk for however many minutes you think you can take and write. Do not check your email or your FB page. Just write.

If you have to give a card for a birthday, anniversary or graduation, write it yourself. Don’t let someone else do it for you. And write it well.

If you have to write a grocery list, do it creatively. Make it funny for someone you love. Make it funny for yourself.

Do the small things well. Do the small things of today as well as you can. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Just do everything you can today as well as you can and soon you’ll have a string of perfectly fine days.

I was watching this guy weighing his tea leaves in a small village in China, just waiting for the ash to fall into the tea leaves. How not to do a small thing.

I was watching this guy weighing his tea leaves in a small village in China, just waiting for the ash to fall into the tea leaves. How not to do a small thing.

Positive acts—whatever they are—build self-esteem. We grow with a job well done.

Just for today, do the small things well.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it best:

Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.


Some uplifting, inspiring, kick-in-your-knickers quotes to get your wheels rolling while you write can be found here.

Posted in countering depression, Transformation, Writers, Writing, Your Best Chapter | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments