Saturday, July 21, 2012

ON TOUR: So You Want to Publish a Book—One Writer's Publishing Journey

So you want to publish a book and have no idea how to go about it. My own publishing journey is chronicled in the 365 Lessons I wrote in 2010. Each person who has published a book has his/her own experience of the process. The best part about having a blog is all the great bloggers and writers I've had the fortune of coming in contact with. Hemmie Martin, UK author, is one of those people. I believe I met Hemmie on Twitter and later discovered her blog called Hemmie-isms and found that she too had a first novel coming out around the same time as mine.

Her book, The Divine Pumpkin, is a very engaging story about Forensic Nurse Paloma Parker who appears to have her life in order except for a meaningful relationship. During her counseling sessions with a young offender named Ella, she discovers a connection she never expected to find. I loved this book so much and was completely drawn up in the characters' lives. I was particularly fascinated with how Paloma's life ran so parallel to that of Ella's life, the young offender who she was counseling. It seemed like they both had so much to learn from one another and that they weren't that different from one another when we were able to get a closer look at their lives. Interestingly, Hemmie is not only a writer, but has also worked as a Forensic Nurse working with young offenders. I wondered how much of her life experience found its way into the book.

Do you find that is true in the work that you do? Do we have a lot to learn from people who live on the margins of society or who have committed an unspeakable crimes?

I believe we all have a lot to learn from one another, no matter where we are in the social structure imposed by life. Some people are able to overcome adversity, some people can do jobs others couldn't imagine doing, whilst some people are exceedingly charitable and forgiving. Life is one long learning process, we never stop and we never know enough.

And here are my questions to Hemmie about her publishing experience. Enjoy and I hope you are able to learn from her book publishing process. Please feel free to ask questions in the comment section!

1. When did you become a writer or decide you wanted to write? When did you decide to write The Divine Pumpkin in particular?

I suppose I would count writing a diary through my teenage years as part of becoming a writer, as it was something I've always loved doing. I have also written professional articles in the past, so writing has always been part of my life in one way or another. I decided to write The Divine Pumpkin in the beginning of 2011.

2. You also have a blog called Hemmie-isms. Do you think it is necessary for book writers to also have blogs and/or websites?

I think it is important as it shows potential publishers and agents that you have an on-line presence and that you are willing to promote yourself and your book. I didn't have a Facebook account, but the publishers requested that I get one and have a fan page—which all felt weird. I'm still not overly keen on FB but I do love Twitter. I also joined Goodreads where authors and writers 'meet' and there are lots of free books being given away, and it's a great place to discuss books.

3. Can you describe your journey to publication for other writers hoping to get a book published. Did you write the manunscript first and seek a publisher after? Did you submit your book to several publishing houses? Do you have an agent or do you think it is necessary for a first time author to have an agent? What are your thoughts on self publishing?

I first began seeking an agent after I wrote my first novel, which I now know was a mistake, as it was too raw and poorly crafted. The Divine Pumpkin was actually my 4th novel and the others will never see the light of day, except Attic of the Mind. I wasn't really aware of indie publishers and I knew that other publishers wouldn't see a manuscript unless sent via an agent. I believed that without an agent I would never be published. I had actually decided to try and self-publish in 2012. My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas so I could see what it looked like. However, I received a contract from Winter Goose Publishing in Dec. 2011. So no, I don't believe it is necessary to have an agent, and if all routes are seemingly closed, then self-publishing is a very real option.

4. Yes, I noticed that Attic of the Mind is due out February 2013! Congratulations! Is that story similar to The Divine Pumpkin? In what ways are they similar or different? Can you give us a synopsis of the next book?

Thanks! This one leans more towards a psychological thriller in some ways, but like The Divine Pumpkin, it does explore people's behaviours and why they may respond to life the way they do. I love people watching in real life and so I love to people watch in my books too. The story revolves around secrets, deception and fear between four people who meet up again after twenty-five years.

5. How did you discover Winter Goose Publishing?

Winter Goose Publishing followed me on Twitter first. I was curious to know more about them, and when I saw they were open to submissions I decided to send off The Divine Pumpkin. Twitter truly offered me what I was looking for, as Winter Goose Publishing has an extremely supportive and talented team. Their philosophy is to nurture and develop their writers, and it shows in the way they deal with me.

6. Have you written anything else for publication?

My second novel is already with my editor for us to work on shortly, and I am writing the first draft of my third novel.

7. How long did it take you to write it?

The whole process of writing, re-writing and editing took about a year.

8. Did you keep a writing schedule? When did you do most of your book writing?

I try and write everyday so I remain in the 'zone', and also because I love writing and it makes me feel content. However, life does sometimes get in the way, but I don't feel racked with guilt if I can't write, I just accept it and hope to write the next day.

9. Do you have a writing or a critique group that helped you in your book writing process?

I don't belong to a writing group, although I'm aware that it would be a good thing to do. Perhaps I'm too anti-social to join such a group? 

10. What was the editing process of this book like for you? Did you have to do a lot of revisions with the publisher, or did they accept most of the manuscript as it was?

I did four edits before I sent it to the publisher. I was nervous about working with an editor, but there was no need as he was fantastic to work with. It was a liberating experience and I only lost 3,000 words of the novel, although by the 5th and final edit, I was beginning to type in my sleep!

11. Did you receive a contract for both books at the same time and/or were both manuscripts completed when you first approached Winter Goose Publishing?

I approached the publishers with The Divine Pumpkin first as they were looking for contemporary women's fiction at that time, even though I had written Attic of the Mind two years previously. I sent 'Attic' to them just before 'Pumpkin' was due to be published, and was delighted when they wanted to publish it. 

12. Do you have any advice for first time authors who are trying to get a book published?

Never, ever give up. They say that a published author is a persistent author. I know I was fed up of reading this when I was trying to get published, and all I can say is, I'm sorry to repeat the message, but it's true. Keep the faith and keep strong. Even when rejections pile up, keep writing new stories, learn about the craft and read, read, read. And don't take the rejection personally.

13. What other advice to you have for writers?

You'll need some self-belief, as some days you will feel that you'll never get published and that your writing is inadequate. I feel that my writing is never as good as another author when I read someone else's novel, but I understand that many of us feel  that way, having spoken to other authors. Personally, when I got 3 or 4 rejections for one novel, I began writing another one. I write books that I would like to read, I don't write for the current trend as that would change by the time of my book's publication. However, I had such a belief in 'Attic' that I persisted to work on it until it was fit for publication. I am constantly learning about the craft and I never feel I have all the knowledge I need. It's an evolving process.

Hemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France, and currently lives in Essex with her husband, two teenage daughters, one house rabbit and two guinea pigs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ON TOUR: Yoga and Writing Retreats from Whidbey Island, WA to Sedona, AZ

Last weekend we returned from our yoga and writing retreat at The Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island! It was sold out in the lodge and one person camped! We've done retreats before, but this was the first time we decided to combine our talents and we got wonderful feedback! The yoginis/writers arrived on Friday night and got settled into their rooms.

At 4:30pm there was orientation and Yoon's Yoga. This is where the "opening" segment of the retreat really happened. My husband Yoon's classes are not to be taken lightly. His classes are challenging, but anyone who is reasonably fit and mobile can do them. The point of his classes are not about flexibility or how much you can do. His classes are about opening up to what is already there and really going inward. They are about facing one's self and moving through one's self imposed limits. Yoon is a gentle teacher, but a strong teacher who is able to guide each person to their edge without pushing them there. At this edge there is a very deep opening that happens.

A few days ago my husband wrote a Facebook Status update that sums up how I feel about his classes and our retreat:

"Life is a magical, but it doesn't mean it is easy. If life is too easy, you can't see the magic because it is not necessary. The magic comes when you have a brave soul and will to explore deep within. Magic is a reward for that."—Seong Yoon Lee

Another great reward was the wonderful group of people who attended the retreat. This time we had several people come from out of state. There were people from Colorado, San Diego and two friends from Marin County, one who came to my book event at Book Passage.

The food was also outstanding! It was prepared by a chef on the island and brought in fresh everyday!

On Saturday, I had a writing workshop. I spent the hour sharing my publishing journey from blog to book and had my book on display for purchase and signing. I gave a few writing prompts, but didn't anticipate all the writing that would happen during our four hour break in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day and everyone was in their own little worlds. The sun was beaming down and people were planted at picnic tables, under trees, in lounge chairs and on blankets and all of them appeared to be WRITING! I think all the opening that had happened during our yoga sessions had inspired them to get something down on paper! It was very inspirational, especially after hearing quite a bit of that writing on the last day when we all regrouped to share what had transpired that afternoon.

On Saturday evening, we all met for a collaging session. Collaging and intentional writing have proven to me to be very powerful tools for seeing my own ideas and dreams come to fruition. These free writing and inspirational activities have helped me move away from a rational/thinking mindset to a more creative mindset where I am able to allow things to be as they are and where I am free to create and to dream without inhibitions or without allowing the thinking process to get in my way.

On many occasions, I have been shocked to discover that things I have collaged or written about years prior have actually occurred or are happening in my present life.

On the last day of the retreat, it was clear that our group had really bonded. It was a tremendous opening experience for me and there were lots of revelations and tears on the last day right before we departed. I don't believe these were sad tears necessarily, but tears of gratitude for what each of us had discovered about ourselves and what we will take with us on our journey forward.

I am happy to announce that we have another yoga/writing retreat coming up in Sedona, Arizona October 25-28! For more information about that, please see the Facebook event page! Space is limited and the spots are filling up really fast. We are offering 20% off the entire retreat if you register before August 15th. To inquire more about this retreat or to reserve your spot, go to! It's going to be amazing, I can feel it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

ON TOUR: From New York City to Baltimore and back to Washington

My husband and I are house sitting over on Puget Sound. I feel I'm on retreat here. A much needed retreat.  Today I spent the afternoon slowly washing my car BY HAND. I know that's a rather mundane thing to post about, but I haven't done anything slowly and meticulously since our whirlwind book tour began on June 19th. (This is a picture of us at the top of the Empire State Building where I vowed to go when I finally got my book published!) It's been so nice to sllllooowwww down! As I was scrubbing the car, I felt the cool breeze on my face and watched the changing cloud formations over Puget Sound. I said hello to a neighbor across the street.

"Are you coming or going?" he asked.  I had to think about that one for a minute as I wasn't quite sure of the answer.

"I'm just here for a few days taking care of the cats over the 4th."

He smiled and we continued talking about the weather and our activities.

Tonight, a blogger friend is coming to town! Becky from the blog Becky Blab will be here. I met her live for the first time in NYC and she'll be here tonight with her husband. I also met Kate from Sunflower Existence and Christa from Christa in New York and a number of other bloggers and writers!

On June 19th, my husband and I took the red eye to NYC. We stayed for two nights near Columbia University with my husband's yoga student's sister and her husband, the oboe player for the NYC Ballet!  On Wednesday night, after flying all night long, we had our first east coast gig at Community Meditation Center on the Upper Westside. Namaste Bookstore came to the event to sell books! It was a great turn out!

I forgot to mention that right after we arrived we headed to Times Square where over 1,000 people were doing yoga for summer solstice. We couldn't miss that event!

I was so happy that my father and step mom were able to fly to NYC from Florida for my book reading. They had an opportunity to meet my lovely agent and lots of friends. On Thursday night, we went out to dinner and to a Broadway show. We saw Peter and the Star Catcher! It was excellent.

On Friday night we stayed with a dear friend in Brooklyn and on Saturday morning we took the PATH to Jersey City to pick up our HUMMER.

Well, not really, but it might as well have been. The rental car company gave us a Toyota Sequoia. Trust me, no one got in our way driving down the New Jersey Turnpike and that was just as well!

Our second gig was in Hawthorne, NJ at Well Read Bookstore. That was where I met a very dear friend from high school who I hadn't seen in 24 years! This book tour was really like a reunion of sorts with new people added to the mix. But even the "new" people felt like long lost friends. There was a reason for each meeting and each minute was so important to us.

After our event in NJ, we headed to Fort Washington, PA where we stayed a night. The next morning we drove to Norristown, PA where we caught up with an old friend for breakfast who is building a house on wheels in her parent's backyard! It was so great to meet up with her!! And her garden is amazing.

We hit the road again and all of the tolls along the way as we headed to Baltimore for our event at Breathe Books. A Korean family showed up to that event and we discovered that they had visited the temple and attended a ceremony where my husband had become a monk. They had no idea that my husband was a monk there!

We drove to Baltimore Airport to drop off our HUMMER and a friend from DC followed us there. We ended our trip with our dear friend Eric who also has a lovely real estate blog called The Cribline! It was a great ending to our tour! We even had a chance to stroll across the grounds around The Capital and along The Mall to a few museums. Miro's paintings were in town at the National Gallery of Art. That was a special treat!

Finally, I had a nice hometown book event on June 30th at Edmonds Bookshop after we returned. It felt like a full circle. I will cherish this experience. The best part of it all was all the lovely people we met along the way. Now we are heading to the airport to pick up my blogger friend who I met in NYC and her husband! Have a lovely 4th of July everyone! I'm going to try and post weekly now. Lots of great stuff coming up! Stay tuned!