Category Archives: Seeking Publication

Twitter for Writers: Top People to Follow on Twitter (and Useful Hashtags)

I’ve posted before (Why Writers Should Use Twitter and Social Media for Writers: Twitter v Facebook) about the ways I’ve come to value Twitter.  I’ve gathered a list of the people and organizations I’ve found most interesting to follow on Twitter this year.

I recommend them based on interest, usefulness and activity level on Twitter.  That is important to say, since, for example, the lit-mag and writer lists clearly leave off many magazines and writers I love.

The list is partially annotated, and loosely categorized (nearly all of those listed might fit in more than one category) and includes some related hashtags.  Also, there are links to my lists within Twitter, to find more writers, magazines and more.

I hope it is useful to you, and would be interested to hear  your own recommendations in the comments — better yet, look me up!  Elissa Field on Twitter: @elissafield.

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Agents:

(Some agent specialties are listed, although I follow many agents outside my genre, based on the information shared in their tweets.)

@RachelleGardner – an agent whose advice on everything from querying to income is thorough and honest.

@DonMaass – ubiquitous agent, Donald Maass

@SaraMegibow – a lovely agent at Nelson Literary Agency, who shares sample replies by posting #10queriesin10tweets (Thursdays)

@michellewitte – MG & YA lit

@sarahlapolla – associate at Curtis Brown

Michelle, Sarah and other agents share advice in open Q & A #askagent chat (Wed evenings)

@greyhausagency – represents romance and women’s lit, and shares sample replies with #GLAQueries

@NepheleTempest – CA lit agent, writer, reader

@QueryShark – a great resource, offering frank critiques of queries submitted by writers

(Note: you can find more than 30 agents and junior agents by checking my list of agents .)

Editors:

@mpnye – Michael Nye is managing editor of Missouri Review, and author of Strategies Against Extinction

@HannahTinti – editor of One Story, author of The Good Thief and more

@robspill – Rob Spillman, Tin House editor

@MargotLivesey – editor of Ploughshares, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy (on my reading list) and other novels

Also, check out my list of editors, and publishers.

Literary Magazines:

@parisreview – The Paris Review

@GrantaMag – Granta

@_conjunctions – Conjunctions

@Missouri_Review – Missouri Review

@haydensferryrev – Haydens Ferry Review

@mcsweeneys – Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly

@NERweb – New England Review

@asfmag – American Short Fiction

@TheReviewReview – a review of literary magazines

@Tin_House – Tin House

@PaperDarts  – Paper Darts

@onestorymag – One Story

(In addition, here is a listing of 70+ literary mags I follow.)

Writers:

@NathanEnglander – his Ministry of Special Cases (2008) was one my best-reads last year

@meganmayhewbergman – has been featured in BASS and has a great short story collection out (2011). Her tweets about writing and life on a New England farm with tiny daughters and vet-husband are elegantly genuine.

@Benjamin_Percy – a great writer, on my list of great workshop leaders as well

@alexanderchee – author of Edinburgh (2002), with new novel coming

@alanheathcock -award winning author of highly charged collection, VOLT (2011)

@CherylStrayed – author of the memoir Wild

@tayari – Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and more

@SalmanRushdie – does he need introduction?

@Shteyngart – most enjoy his tweets in exchange w others, like Rushdie

@novaren – the writer of YA novel, Imaginary Girls, and more

@katemessner – a children’s writer and TED2012 speaker, who hosted TeachWrite! camp this summer

@alexizentner – author of Touch and The Lobster Kings (coming 2013)

@unitedirishman – Irish ex-pat writing crime noir (his The Cold Cold Ground is on my reading list), whose blog is fierce with wit and intelligence

I will read anything this witty writer posts:

@mat_johnson – author of the novel Pym, whose twitter profile reads, “Because it amuses me to say so.”

@emmastraub – author (on my summer reading list: Other People We Married (2012)), bookseller, @RookieMag  staffwriter, with a lovely wit.

(I follow many more writers than this, so check my list of writers.)

Writer-Resources:

@Duotrope – a powerful writers’ resource listing 3,500 publications, with submission tracker — posts updates about publication reading periods, etc.

@newpages – tweets updated info on litmags, booksellers and more for writers, editors and readers.

@GrubWriters – Grub Street center for creative writing in Boston, hosts the MUSE conference in May (hastag #MUSE2012, or -2012

@poetswritersinc – Poets & Writers magazine – the only “how to” magazine I’ve ever liked for writers

@galleycat – “first word for news in the publishing industry” from Mediabistro

@PublishersLunch – tweets for Publishers Weekly

@BTMargins – Beyond the Margins literary blog

@janefriedman – has been an editor, current role changing, she posts frequently on all aspects of publishing and promoting literature

@Porter_Anderson

@JonathanGunson – a writer, sharing publishing, writing & emedia advice

@ErikaDreifus – author of The Quiet Americans, collects and shares useful information for writers

Teaching & Teaching Writing:

@writingproject – National Writing Project

@edutopia – “what works in education” – the George Lucas educational foundation

@RWTnow – Read Write Think. org

@nytimeslearning – New York Times Learning Network

Social Media or PR:

@robertleebrewer – a poet whose blog My Name is Not Bob is generous with advice on social media and more

@kmullett – Kevin Mullett – a developer/designer tech guy, not PR, who just… well, seems to get all those things folks have questions about

@wordwhacker – Linda Bernstein – writer, editor, blogger, posting about all this and social media and parenting

Look for Kevin and Linda on SM & tech chats using hashtags including: #pinchat #toolschat #tocc (tools of change)

Indie Booksellers:

@TatteredCover – an indie in Denver, with great online content

@indiebound – use indiebound.org to locate your neighborhood indie bookseller online, or purchase books online from any indie in the network.

(Raid this list to find all the independent booksellers I follow. Find one near you to do your shopping.  Find one to order from.  Connect with these guys to build your reading tour when your book launches.)

News Sources:

My two favorite sources for news:

@nytimes – The New York Times

@guardian – The UK’s Guardian

Other sources I follow:

@reuters – Reuters top news

@the_irish_times – Irish Times

@washingtonpost – Washington Post

Book News & Reviews:

@nytimesbooks – New York Times Books

@nybooks – NY Review of Books

@latimesbooks – LA Times Books

@guardianbooks – Guardian Books

Online Curators:

@brainpicker – Maria Popova shares one brilliant thing found online

@FridayReads – use the hashtag #fridayreads to share what you are reading each week

More Hashtags and Chats I Follow:

#toc variations – Tools of Change discussions and conferences

#litchat – literary or book chats held several times each week – great to visit, or to add to your book release tour

#YAlit, #MGlit or #kidlit – chats about young adult, middle grade & children’s lit

#amwriting #writetip – for kindred spirits at work on writing

#WSchat (formerly #MNINB) – Used by Wordsmith Studio, a writers’ group formed by participants from Robert Lee Brewer’s April 2012 Platform Challenge

#educhat – matters related to teaching and education

Twitter trick: Have you ever wondered what a hashtag stood for and didn’t know how to look it up?  Try this: http://tagdef.com/

(If you’re curious about a meaning and the tag is not listed on the tagdef site — as happened for me with #WTLconf12 — you can always tweet someone using the tag to ask them the meaning.)

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Feel free to add your suggestions or your own Twitter ID in the comments, and do look me up: @elissafield

Housekeeping takes time: if we are already connected on Twitter, check to see if I added you to the twitter list you would fit on by checking here. If not, private message me so I can add you.

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Related Posts:

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like minded bloggers!

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Filed under Reading, Seeking Publication, Social Media

Mother, Writer… the house is a mess but no one’s died yet

I did not write or revise as much as I should have last week. I had one of those weeks where we get overly preoccupied with waiting for responses.

Unfortunately, I’ve arrived at summer ready to rock at the same time the rest of the world (myself included, in many ways) is embracing summer’s doldrums. In our own ways, all of us are lolling by the pool with a mojito, or floating in the lake, minted ice tea in one hand, other dragging in marvel at the cool swirling water.

As restful as it is, summer is key work time for me, with fewer expectations on my hours than any other time in the year. I’ve been thrilled to feel my novel in progress vividly playing out in my mind, coming to the page as it needs to, as are revisions to previous works in the wings.

But I’ve been impatient, jumpy with that unnamed energy you get when you’ve put work out there and are waiting to hear back. Normal submission replies, sure, and then there’s the story out to an editor who has always praised my work, which, according to Duotrope, is lingering a good 40 days longer than other replies are taking. Yeah, I’m sure. I’ve checked the submission managers once or twice.

Clearly, last week’s impatience had to find direction.

I put the energy to use by playing with online resources. I’ve been a twitter skeptic, but found it useful, clicking links or following threads which unearthed articles and resources I’d have had no reason to discover otherwise. (I also find it amusing to feed twitter random lines from my work, eerily disembodied or meaning even changed, once reduced to 140 characters.)

I followed leads that helped me discover new publications or update information on ones I’d fallen out of touch with. I read some great work, and enjoyed sharing links for a few of these, and downloaded a couple writers’ books via Kindle. I submitted work to a couple of the magazines I’d discovered/rediscovered, and calendared reading dates for those I want to submit to when reading opens again in August or September. Yeah, I rechecked submission managers a few more times, but enjoyed more connecting with writers, editors, agents and others in the business, in that water cooler way that twitter and facebook afford, that is nearly impossible without the virtual world.

But… at a certain point, I was still hyper puppy.

I wrote a blog, which I’d lapsed doing since December. I wrote a new story start while at the pool with my boys. But new starts are another distraction when you have work to finish. We’d been at my dad’s for father’s day which had me off-line, but also no writing while we visited.

Coming back Monday, it was time to declare a no-interruptions mode.

The meditative hour of driving back from my dad’s, through grazing lands and orchards beneath that broad, blue Florida sky, had loosened thoughts I’d not yet developed about the main character in the main novel I’ve been working on, the one whose characters tended to lean against the counters, arms crossed in an attempt at patience when my morning or evening were taken over with cooking for my sons.  (The mother character might get on quietly with her own business, in her silent way, but he would be unbending. Did I really need to marinate before grilling? Did I need to make spaghetti from scratch; did I not know these things were available in pre-made forms? Had I not considered take out? Better yet, fast food? He is an impatient soul, fuming, but I forgive him considering the answer of his life or death awaits my piecing together those patches of draft saved in multiple Word docs. Get on with it, he rightfully urges.)

It was the mother I’d written least about, and on my drive home, a single image was surfacing of her waiting for the mail, then switching to a new hobby at the point she believed her lover dead and no longer able to write.

“Give me one hour,” I told my sons, when we arrived home.

I set a timer, threatened the pain of no trip to a store they’d asked to go to if they spoke to me once before it went off: “Don’t interrupt unless you’re bleeding or on fire.”

I put on headphones and music to block distraction.

I opened my add-on draft and let her speak to me. The mother wanted to tell me about the meaning of waiting for flowers to bloom. To get there, that one hour gave me 1700 words about the months after her son was born, an odd fog of experience that put on paper things I’d never thought how to express before.

There would be a need, later in the novel, for some justification of her actions, but this little chunk of text accomplished authentically, with one short revelation, what might otherwise have taken reams of less effective explanation. I love that kind of writing more than any other.

I claimed another hour later to expand on it. My mind was again wholeheartedly present in the novel, her dreams and nightwaking thoughts appearing a vivid blue-green haze so that I understood fully how the final bridge would take place, from that moment of action, to this of reflection, to how they were about to play out. Netflix, you’re no competition to watching a novel spin out in my mind.

Kudos go in part to last week’s internet distractions.

That surfing has its place, as do all the administrative distractions, in the overall business of writing. Motivation to claim that hour to write was actually spurred by an article I came across during my hyper-twit hours: Novelist Mary McNamara’s A working mother’s guide to writing a novel (LA Times). As a mom with sons home for the summer during my key writing months, her advice hit home.

Disciplined hours here and there have given me 9,700 words that needed to be written in the past two weeks. Hopefully the boys will not be bleeding or on fire any time soon, as it’s nearly time to lace all these bits of draft together, and see how close this new novel is to done.

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Filed under Novel Writing, Seeking Publication, Time Management for Writers, Writing Life, Writing Mother

Elissa Field’s “Still Life with Nixon on the Beach” published by Web Conjunctions

shark elissa field fiction still life on the beachI just had word from Conjunctions editors that my story, Still Life with Nixon on the Beach, which I mentioned in my prior blog (Running on the Grass), has gone live as the featured story at Web Conjunctions  today.

I’ve had the following excerpt on this site, on the page featuring my short stories, for the past months:

At a bar in Crooked Moon Bay, making small talk with a friend who was days away from being married, I watched a woman with long, titian hair lean over a burning candle as she bent close to talk to a friend.  She didn’t know, but in her excitement, her hair fell into the flames.  The friend gestured desperately, trying to stop the girl’s emphatic story.  She finally noticed, her hands rising pragmatically to put out the flaming twists of her hair, squeezing out fire as if wringing out water.  Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

Rereading that excerpt today as I went to post news of the publication, I couldn’t help being reminded of a stream of conversation amongst fellow writers at Poets & Writers’ Speakeasy some months back.

So often, no matter the definition of “fiction,” writers are asked of their work, “Is that character really you?”

Still Life with Nixon on the Beach is an intensely personal story to me — yet also perfect example of why debating fiction vs. autobiography can be so controversial to a writer.

For what it’s worth, I never followed the seasons, island to island.  I never dated anyone named Nixon.  I am not the one who swam from an anchored sailboat to shore, seeing the oversized form of a tiger shark swim beneath her, and the sailor with a parrot sleeping on his shoulder was not this rake.  Yet in the fiber of every detail, this story is still mine.

I do live in the tropics, grew up with my father’s boating history and charter sailed in and out of Charlotte Amalie.  I did in fact lean over a candle once at a bar, my hair catching on fire, and have the band start riffing a song, “To the lovely lady with her hair on fire.”  I did have recurring nightmares about tornados, and also about a man in my house.  I did meet a certain friend in the sleeping porch off my room with a knife up my sleeve.  I did once have a conversation with my father about all the moments in my childhood when I’d needed protection and was startled how little need he felt to load that metaphorical shotgun.  I did find the orange-crayoned letter, I did watch the leather journal being purchased months before it arrived in the mail.  I did find the redemption of a pod of dolphins at twilight, right at the moment I’d lost all faith in my love for someone.

The story reminds me, in fact, of granny square afghans my grandmother used to crochet when I was a child.  She would spin them out like daisies in patchworked colors from odd loose-ends of yarn, only later assembled into the form of a baby’s jacket or blanket for the sofa (which sadly all have been thrown away as tacky remnants of the 70s, which would be oh-so-cool to have now).  So, in the same way, this story is pieced together of collected truths from my childhood through young adulthood, from my first hopes at love through my first disillusionments and my first understanding of real faith in the absence of concrete proof, and is the only existing revelation of an unnerving 6th sense that has too often left me confused if I were knowing things I could not know, or simply imagining things.

It is in that sense autobiographical.

Yet not.

Fiction is still its own invention, its own living truth.  Using details that might be the same granny squares first crocheted, yet assembled to create a new form, pieced together to perhaps make more clear an understanding of the world that was so much less clear when still a mass of untwisted yarns.

An example of how the twisted yarns of a writer’s personal details get woven into a story that is no longer exactly about them, is what got me going on this blog today.  Rereading that excerpt above, I smiled in reminder of where I got name for the bay.  Riding home in the car with my preschool son one night, he looked out the window and said, “Look mom, the moon is crooked!”  In revisions this became, “At a bar in Crooked Moon Bay…”

So, like many of my peer writers, I would say, “No, the life of the main character is not mine.  She is not me.  It is fiction, not autobiography.”  Yet yes, the story is mine.  And I am very proud for it to be live at Conjunctions this month.   I hope you’ll check it out.

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Filed under Seeking Publication, Setting Place Roots, Writing Process & Routine

Running on the Grass

I’ve been happy to say I had a short story accepted for publication, coming out later this month.  Not only was it accepted, but it was accepted by an editor whose accomplishments and taste I admire.  Short of quoting his actual email, I can say I could not have asked for higher praise in the words he used to express pride in publishing the story.

You must understand the relative isolation and uncertainty in which most writers work.  The accepted story was written in parts over a period of nearly ten years.  It is a story of singular intensity — a story I initially wrote in response to the challenge: “Write something that scares you to put on paper.  Write something one would not say out loud.”  I did.  I wrote something that scared me.  And I did it in a way that was unapologetic in not hiding behind any narrative artifice — no gentle introductions, no fluffy segues. (Inspiration for story mentioned here.) It came together as an act of artistry and bravery, but also as a piece that would not fit the needs of all editors as they allocated the limited space in their literary journals.  In its first forays out for publication, it drew praise and near misses, but also confusion over a hurdle I could not at that time see the solution to.

I was a young parent by then.  My husband spent three years slashing his way into a higher paying job in order to support our little family so I could stay home most hours with our son.  Babies take more hours than one might think.  By the second son, I’d given up a freelance gig because of its unpredictable demands.

After years of telling myself that being a professional writer required my willingness to make sacrifices to dedicate myself to my work, I was suddenly feeling guilty over the time and expense the writing had cost — and still no bestseller on the shelf.  This fierce story brought home a near miss from Paris Review and The Sun, praise from Esquire.  But most readers have no idea the number of submissions a work might take to find the right editor, the right publication, at the right time.  The numbers game can become wearying.

At a point, I chastised myself over the near misses.  I assumed those close to me were wearying as well, and began to say: “If I were a football player, no matter how close I’d gotten to the end zone, at a certain point, if I’d never crossed the goal line, it was just a lot of running around on grass.”

Sharing this the other day, a writing colleague said that if they’d had near misses at publications like Paris Review, they couldn’t imagine doubting their abilities.  But it felt like time for some professional humility.  If I sold TVs, my shop would not be in business if sets never left the store with paying customers.  I was willing to consider maybe I was more suited to novel length, and just not a short story writer.   No question, it was a little personal trash talk.  The Army goads, “Go big or go home.”  I goaded myself to either be a writer who crosses that endzone, or own up that I might be just running on grass.

My aunt had a national champion quarter horse when I was young.  Gorgeous, gorgeous mare.  As her trophies mounted, they chose to breed her with an equally gorgeous and accomplished stallion, named Robert Redford.  The filly born was a spectacular, glowing chestnut with a perfect star on her forehead.  Next to her chocolate bay mother, she drew gasps.  She would be a star.  Yet, as time came for her to be saddle-trained, turned out there was something off in her fore-cannons (shins, for non-horsefolk).  They’d work her and fail, and have to take a break, a few months off, then try again.  Try and try again.  My aunt stood beside her, this gorgeous horse she couldn’t ride, and struggled with frustration.

Solution?  Turn the filly to pasture, let her legs strengthen.  Turn her out to run on the grass.

In writing communities, how often we run into young writers seeking advice because they are so desperate to have success now — today, on the day and time they scheduled it, within a framework their questioning families can accept.

But it’s sometimes like that filly.

I was thrilled the day it clicked in my head: the ironic parallel between the football metaphor I used to insult my efforts and the memory of that filly out kicking her heels in the thick grass of a Michigan hillside.

Sometimes writing is all about running on the grass.

We schedule our hours to work.  We hone our skills.  We read and write with professional determination.  We push ourselves to reach that completed draft, then whip ourselves all over again through the real work of revision.  We force ourselves to be humble and brave, at once.  But, in the end, as with life itself, a-ha’s and true insight and seeing the forest despite the trees don’t always arrive on a schedule.

I ran on the grass for three or four years while raising tiny babies, steeping in the mortal life’s experience that parenthood is, without scheduling time to write about it.  And one morning woke up with a full novel spilling out so voraciously that I could type fourteen hours a day and still take months to get it down.  A second novel came nearly as easily.  And one day, a short story.

It reminded me I like writing short stories and I went back to them — no longer with the drudgery of one fatigued by unmet expectations, but with the liveliness of one fresh from a wild gallop in the grass.

I understood clear as day, for the first time, why I had named a character Nixon and how a certain meaning I’d always felt about this one story had never made it onto the page.  I rewrote it.  I sent it out.  Acceptance came in a phone message I received while standing in a circle of my writing students, unable at first to explain my sudden emotion.

So publication this month comes with its own double reward.  This story crossed the end zone, but with the refreshed appreciation that there is something to be said for running on the grass.  There would be no game without it and — whether a running back, a red filly or a writer — that time on the grass is when so much of the thrill and accomplishment take place.

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Filed under Novel Writing, Seeking Publication, Time Management for Writers, Writing Life, Writing Mother