Monday, February 28, 2011

Featured Author - Jacquelyn Mitchard

I think the world of Jacquelyn Mitchard. And it's not just because she kept trying to write out something for my blog in the midst of everything else she was doing this month (although in my book she gets a gold star for fabulousness for that). Jacquelyn is a gifted writer and has written many books including Deep End of the Ocean - you know, the one that was made into a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Whoopi Goldberg and was an Oprah Book Club choice...yes, that's the one ;) She also has a great blog which I highly recommend, and she is wonderful about sharing her wisdom with new authors.


By: Jacquelyn Mitchard

MYTH: If my book is published by a large press, such as Harper Collins, I’ll only be a face in the crowd to my editor.

TRUTH: A good editor at a large publishing house, a small independent or a copying machine in your basement will give you professional treatment, understanding and support. Your book’s success matters to your editor and your publisher.

MTYH: Agents are crooks and the best writers don’t need them.

TRUTH: Bad agents are bad and bad lawyers are bad and bad doctors are bad and bad singers are bad. A professional, powerful, thoughtful, determined agent is the angel in your corner. Make sure that agent is a member in good standing of the Association of Author Representatives and then, trust your gut. But negotiating the world of e-rights, not to mention a, b, c and d rights, is a full time job and not yours.

MYTH: No one can get published anymore. The market is too tough. You have to be an established “name.”

TRUTH: It is much more difficult to get a novel published now than it was a decade ago. Many doors are at least opened to “name” authors. That said, Charles Bock’s ‘Beautiful Children’ Kathryn Casey’s ‘Minotaur’ James Syrie’s ‘The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen’ and Ann Wentz Garvin’s ‘On Maggie’s Watch,’ were all first novels that generated lots of buzz and, in some cases, lots of $.

MYTH: I need an advanced degree to write fiction.

TRUTH: You may wish to sturdy for your MFA to do deeper into your fiction and poetry. In teaching, an advanced degree is an enormous advantage. In being published, it is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage.

MYTH: The biggest of the big writers don’t write their own books.

TRUTH: A few (such as James Patterson) produce detailed outlines that are then written in first draft form by a salon of newer writers whom Patterson encourages and nurture in their own work as well. Most writers whose names you know as important, however, write every page just as I am writing this blog.

MYTH: You have to be under the age of 30 to really make it. Editors want to have a long term relationship with the writers they “raise” from their first books.

FACT: If you write a great book, no one cares about your age. Many authors (such as Lisa Genova, ‘Still Alice,’ and ‘Left Neglected’) are 40 or older and have been very successful in other fields before their first novels are published. Orange Prize short lister Patricia Kesling Woods was 53 when ‘Lottery!’ was published. Editors do want a long- term relationship, so walk two miles every day and eat your bran flakes. They do not want to hold hands with a neurotic adolescent. Being a person who has found herself as well has her voice is no disadvantage.

MYTH: a professional editing job, pre-submission will mess up my book’s vision.

TRUTH: Good editing before an agent ever sees your first 50 pages is a wonderful idea if you can afford it. Professional editors with proven track records probably do the best job but the “second eyes” of a friend in the craft is a terrific boost.

MYTH: All top-notch writers live on the east or west coats.

TRUTH: Elizabeth Berg lives near Chicago. Jane Hamilton lives in Wisconsin. Billy Bryson lives in England and Carl Hiassen lives in Florida. Chris Bohjalian lives in Vermont and Jodi Picoult lives in New Hampshire. A very famous writer once told me that living in New York City actually kept him from writing because there was so much more temptation to participate in social and cultural events.

MYTH: Other writers will steal your ideas. Agents will steal your ideas and give them to more established authors.

TRUTH: This is called paranoia and results from extraordinary stress and pre-publication blues. While I have never personally known a situation in which this happened, the lawsuit based on the PROOF of its happening would set you up for life and let your write your first ten books without having to wait tables.

MYTH: I have young kids. I cannot write. I have a job. I cannot write.

TRUTH: When I wrote my first novel, I had four kids under the age of ten, and was a widow, and had three day jobs .I had no money. I was besieged by grief. As Jane Hamilton said to me at the time, “These are very good excuses. However, they are excused.” You are barking up the wrong writer with this song. The truth is that children do better if they pay more attention to you than you pay to them. The truth is that you don’t have to be a bad parent to be a good writer. And you do not have to be a woman. Andre Dubus III (‘House of Sand and Fog,’ ‘Townie’) is one of the best family men and one of the best writers I know. He also is a full-time professor.

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the author of ten novels for adults, including The Deep End of the Ocean and the upcoming Second Nature: A Love Story. she also is a frequent contributor to magazines such as Parade and Real Simple and adjust professor of Creative Writing in the MFA program at Fairfield University.

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