Monday, April 10, 2017

Interview with Rashida Costa, Author of 365 Days Smarter: Get Through Your Year Successfully With These 365 Quotes

       My book-seeking friends and fellow authors, it is good to see you all again! Thanks for stopping by. Today, on our un-ending quest for knowledge and insight into the tricks and trades of the publishing world, we're hearing from Rashida Costa, the author of 365 Days Smarter: Get Through Your Year Successfully With These 365 Quotes. Let's see what she has to share with us!
How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
Rashida: Writing for me began at an early age. Originating written works is a passion that has reckoned with me for as long as my memory serves. It started with comprehensible journaling in the first grade that my friends enjoyed. Gradually, the transition to poetry was a natural one, since aesthetic expression is always something I gravitate towards. In journaling and poetry writing, a deep path is travelled and lived through time, and every moment mirrors a life experience that leaves you wanting to include the outside world. Thus, authoring is the next natural step that complements and supports that journey.

What was the inspiration behind 365 Days Smarter?
Rashida: I wanted to provide people with a little piece of gem to get through their day. Distractions and disappointments present themselves in many forms, but being armed with the tools to vanquish them makes for a productive and happy journey. There are no hard or fast rules about which quote is applicable on a given day, in any order, that is highly subjective. The idea is to apply each quote as it applies to your existence and experience on that particular day. Obstacles, challenges, and disappointments are a given. It is of vital importance that these interferences do not successfully deter us from our goals and purpose.
       365 Days Smarter was published independently. Can you share with us why you decided to go that route?
Rashida: To be endowed with my creative freedom is a benefit I enjoy. This of course is a personal choice, and will be subjective across the board.

What has the response to this book been so far?
Rashida: I am truly humbled by the supportive responses that I have received. It is truly an honor and a blessing to see so many people resonating with the message.

You are also a children's book author. Do you have any new books for kids on the horizon?
Rashida: Yes, I am exhilarated about my soon to be released book, The Easter Egg Opens Up To The Bunny. The Easter Egg Opens up To the Bunny is about an egg and a rabbit that are best friends sharing their Easter experiences. It hits on the educational aspect while discovering a fun delivery and unique learning style for children. The book’s essential purpose is not just to have a fun read and a few laughs, but to educate as well.
What advice can you give to new authors just getting started exploring the publishing world?
Rashida: Your vision is not always received through the same set of eyes, so no matter what, believe in yourself and keep going. You have a story to tell, and it is not how the story gets told that matters, but that you are heard.

If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Rashida: The legendary Maya Angelou of course, the lenses through which I see the world. A topic of discussion would undoubtedly be her marriage to Greek Electrician and aspiring musician Tosh Angelos. As someone who married interracially through the eyes of the world, but in a different era, I can’t imagine what her narrative account would be. Her strength and courage to live through and be a survivor of the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time, is truly a demonstration of who she was as a person. She always showed a laudable sense of commitment to her truth and that is one of many things I love about her. One of the quotes in my book 365 Days smarter is “People are like crayons they come in different colors, but there is no rank or degree of importance with one crayon over another.” Rashida Costa. Maya lived from this perspective.

What are your thoughts on dusty old bookstores?
Rashida: A treasure to be had. Since the ones from my grandfather’s library are all gone, penetrating the back of the bookshelf of an older used book store always saves the day for me. I am always in for a treat!

Who, in particular, should pick up a copy of 365 Days Smarter?
Rashida: Life experiences do not discriminate, we all live them, good and bad. Therefore, everyone should pick up a copy, as it will not only serve as a compass, but as that drive you need to keep going and achieve the greatest you.
 Where can we buy it?
Please check back soon for our next Author Interview and check out what's happening (on Twitter) @RimerTom, where we chat any/everything book and publishing related. Who's up next?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Interview: Susannah Simpson, author of Geography of Love and Exile


Welcome back! Today's interview is with Susannah Simpson, author of the poetry collection titled Geography of Love and Exile, published by Cervena Barva Press. Susannah has been kind enough to share with us her experience entering the world of publishing, no doubt a topic that will be of great interest to readers of this blog. If you like what you hear from Susannah today, please make sure to pick up a copy of her book!

On to the interview!

Where did the idea for this collection start?
Susannah: Probably my poem Band-i-Amir was the start of Geography of Love & Exile. I wrote it almost 40 years ago when I was a kid living in upstate New York farm country and found myself still profoundly affected by the beauty of Afghanistan. My family had been living in Afghanistan and had been back in the States 6 or seven years when I wrote it. While we were in Afghanistan we took a family vacation to the Helmand Valley (Central Afghanistan) to see Band-i-Amir. It is a remarkable collection of glacial runoff lakes which have an unearthly blue-turquoise hue. The name loosely translated from Persian means “king: who’s memory and spirit will never die”  I am routinely haunted by places I have lived, the images, smells, and sounds stay with me and live inside me. Some might call it a form of obsession--for example, there is an otherwise unremarkable street in Key West that drifts into my interior vison; I see the shade on the sidewalk under one of the overhanging banyan trees, and the sun on the grey clapboard siding of a particular house on Evernia St. I don’t know why that particular vision erupts or subsides, or even why that street, or that house. But my poem Cayo Hueso is a direct result of that deep nostalgia which manifests as a poetic homage.

Had you ever published anything quite like this before?

Susannah: This is my first published book---my poems have been published in a number of literary journals—but this is the first published full length collection. I have two more manuscripts waiting for final proof, editing, and publishing. The next book: Death, Desire and Dishabille (which is French for half-undressed!) is a two-part collection of poems. The first section examines different kinds of death and the second half are poems which explore different kinds of sensuality. The third book is a collection of studies of people and creatures titled: Etudes.

How long did this project take to complete?

Susannah: I started submitting poems to literary journals in 2005, and by 2010 I began putting the manuscript together. This was an intuitive process because as I looked at piles of poems I began to see how the poems were aligning themselves into an organic order. THEY really made the decisions about arrangement and final thematic thread of the book. This manuscript was ready for publication (minus some minor tweaking) in early 2011 and was accepted for publication in the winter of 2011, then finally rolled off the presses in 2016.

For those of out there who are still seeking a publisher, how did you eventually connect with Cervena Barva Press? Can you discuss the process?

Susannah: I was fortunate to meet NYC poet George Held at a workshop he was teaching. At that time I was hosting a monthly poetry reading on Long Island and invited him to be a featured reader. George is a gifted teacher and a prolific writer. At this count he has 13 or more books of poetry published, has been nominated for Pushcart prize and is asked to read all over the New York area. He became a mentor and inspiration to me, so when my manuscript was ready I showed it to him. He then recommended I contact Cervena Barva’s publisher. I contacted her, told her George had suggested I submit to her, then sent my manuscript. Within about two days she replied with an acceptance for publication. The publisher is running a small press, working full-time and doing her own writing, so she is very, very busy. Originally the book was set to come out in 2013, then 2014, 2015 and finally it happened in 2016. I wasn’t privy to the whys and wherefores of the delays as these were behind the scenes, but I admit there were times when I had lost hope of ever seeing my book in print. As it turned out the book is beautifully done and I am very pleased.

You’ve lived in a number of interesting locations. What place would you return to if you could?

Susannah: My sisters and I often talk about returning to Afghanistan, but are afraid that years of war, conflict, and destruction would make it be too sad to go back. More recently I fell in love with and really long to go back to Johnson City, NY. Johnson City is a grimy, factory town but oh, does it have soul! In fact I am convinced the Susquehanna River and I are soul mates.  As a result of my love affair with Johnson City , I wrote and got to read a portion of my  tribute 16 stanza poem a “Johnson City” on WSKG/NPR during April 2011’s National Poetry Month—that was a high point!

What inspires you as a poet?

Susannah: Other writers inspire me. I was first deeply influenced by WWI poets Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. I know when I am reading a really fine author when I find myself itching to write while I am reading them. It ALWAYS happens when I read Hemingway, Fitzgerald and especially the Soldier poets of the Vietnam War: Weigl, Bowen. Also Joy Harjo, Szymborska and a super favorite of mine: Naomi Shihab Nye. These writers inspire me to edit out any bullshit and get to the heart of the matter.

What advice can you give to poets and authors who are just getting started?

Susannah: Rector the founder of the MFA Writing Seminars at Bennington used to show the clip from Glen Garry Glenn Cross to the new students. It is the scene where Alec Baldwin is shaming the salesman to: “A-B-C --Always be closing!” Or as Churchill said: “Never, never give up!” If your poems are rejected, send them out again right away to someone else. If one bookstore or coffee shop won’t let you host a reading—find another. In this predominant L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry scene, Narrative poetry gets a bad rap as old-fashioned, sentimental or confessional AND self-indulgent, but narrative poets are storytellers and it is through our commonalities, our shared human emotional devastations, fears, and ecstasies-- these stories which offer connection. Who could say narrative poets are not needed in this dystopian and polarized political climate?

Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allan Poe?

Susannah: Of course I admire the brevity and clarity of Dickinson and am thrilled by the lush edginess of Poe—but I am more of a Rumi, Rilke and Neruda girl. If anyone needs to sway a lover—Neruda’s Sonnet 17 is a guaranteed home run!

What your favorite movie from the 80’s?

Susannah:  Hands down-Out of Africa—I re-watch it every year. I love everything about it—the music, sweeping cinematography, Victorian costumes, steamy love scenes—and the part where I always cry—not when Finch-Hatten dies—but when Baroness Blixen has to say goodbye to Farah—and to Africa. I suppose it evokes in me the distress I felt saying goodbye to my first love, Afghanistan—a place I had spent my childhood.

Where can we buy your book?


Thanks so much for sharing your insight with us Susannah! Readers- go out and pick up a copy of Geography of Love and Exile today! You will not regret owning this incredibly original collection of poetry.

This is the first in our new series of author interviews. As mentioned before, it's been a little while since our last series, but we're excited to get started again meeting the newest and most exciting new writers out there. Who's next?

As always, check out what's cookin' on my twitter page, @RimerTom for more author interviews and news from me as I continue on in my seemingly never-ending quest toward Author-dom.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Switching Gears

This means many things, okay? For one, switching gears means a new start on a new manuscript. My last novel is still very much in play... but, I think, interest in it (from a number of folks) has waned and I'm ready to starting exploring something fresh. I think switching gears should be invigorating and will allow me to return to the old project in time with a renewed zest (and hopefully ideas for revision).

I also have a great outline for my next novel. Something totally different. It's a similar genre, but otherwise I'm really straying from my comfort zone on this one. I've been told to "write what I know" and to "write what interests me". I'm trying to strike a good balance between that and "writing what others (particularly publishers) are interested in". It's tough and certainly causing some strife between competing parties in my author-brain, but I think it's good for me... whatever it brings.

The switching of gears will also, once again, include the direction of this blog. I spent a great deal of time in past years interviewing a wide range of talented authors, with the intent to really learn more about the craft in general, experiences with agents and publishers, and generally attempting to get the word out about hidden gems in Book-Land. I took a long break from that, choosing to focus for a while on the blogging/documenting of my own experience trying to break into publishing. With the start of this new project, I'd like to once again clean my lenses, and take another walk through a series of author interviews.

Would you be interested in giving us some insight into your experience getting published? I am in the process of scheduling my next set of "Author Interviews". It's a super easy way to get your name out there and eyes on your newest works. I also make sure to share my blog posts with my twitter following @RimerTom... which mainly consists of people interested in either reading, writing, or publishing great works.

Are you the next great author? Please let me know if you'd like to participate!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

It's Time to Query

For those of you who have been tracking my progress on this novel over the years... I'm sorry. I couldn't have possibly taken longer to get to this moment, which I'm sure made for some anticlimactic reading.

But yes... it's time. I'm "ready". Quotation marks are being used here because I'm not exactly sure what I even mean by "ready". What I do know is that, while I'm not 100% satisfied with the manuscript, I'm not sure that I would ever be 100% satisfied with the manuscript. So, for that reason, I'm "ready". "Ready" to start querying some smaller, independent publishing houses. "Ready" (and honestly a little bit nervous) to finally engage the elusive literary agent. I've read all of the "What Not To Do" articles and the "What You Always Need To Do" articles. If there's ever been something written on this process, I've looked it over.

It's time.

Okay, so, what should I be expecting? Part of me is just assuming, and prepared, to either not hear anything at all... or, at best, receive a few canned messages that sound a little like, "It's just not what we're looking for at this time." If that happens, I'm telling myself, I will be cool and not caught off guard.

And if I'm right and I experience exactly what I'm expecting? Well, then I'm prepared to open up my laptop and start brainstorming my next "amazing-idea-that-came-from-some-dream-I-had, that-would-be-perfect-for-a-book."

This will happen, either for this novel or the next. Or the next... or...

And that's cool too.

Wish me luck?


Find me on the twitter thang, talking about books, the book, the rejection(s)?, and the like:


p.s. I just decided to start a brand new hashtag... #darthvaderreading
I'm that kind of cool. CHECK IT OUT!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

When It's Time to Let Your Novel Fly the "Nest"

Writing a novel is a little bit like raising a teenager. Or, so I assume. I haven't yet had the pleasure of raising a teenager. But, from what I gather, they're pretty much the same thing.

Pretty much.

Every parent gets to a point where it's time to take a deep breath, drop your kid of somewhere far from home, and pay someone else a buttload of money to turn them into a respectable member of society. To me, that's bares a terrifying similarity to the author/novel relationship. It's where I find myself right now, in fact.

Think about it. You've coddled and cooed to your "work-in-progress" for so long now that people have started staring at you in the self-checkout line at Stop & Shop. Sometimes, you let others look at your novel (kid) and half-heartedly listen to their concerns and thoughts on possible improvement. Maybe you've even bragged about your book (kid) on social media so much so that your closest family and friends have blocked you. No one wants to see pictures of your kid anymore... or hear about the novel you've been working on for the better part of the last few years. It's time to let go.

You've done enough.

Whatever will be, will be... right? At some point, you just can't edit anymore. You can't show it to anymore betas. You just need to open up the front door and say, "We need your room for our new craft-space/Ebay-room. So, get out."

While I'm not 100% there just yet (and who ever really is), I think I'm super close. I've nurtured this thing and pushed it along the best I know how. It's time to put it in someone else's hands and see what comes back. Sure, on some cold winter nights, I'll be sitting at home wondering what kind of shenanigans my novel is getting into. I'll be worried that it will connect with the wrong crowd and come back home to me unrecognizable and a total waste of my time and money.

God, that sounds awful. That's not going to happen, right?


Ah, well. The point is, sometimes it is just freaking time. Enough is enough.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Yup, I'm Still Writing

Well, hello. Been a little while, huh? I know that I can, at times, neglect this blog and my readers, but I always manage to find my way back. Someway, somehow. Rest assured, I have still been at it. I've actually been writing, editing, reading, and revising so much that I've not had time to talk about writing, editing, reading, or revising.

You get the picture.

At first, I started with a legit break for the #AmWriting world and community. My book has been through two full drafts/rounds of revision. I've had the first pair of eyes grace the pages of the novel that I've been working on for, going on, two years now. As I've said, time and again, I find that I need to rest my eyes and "break" from my work-in-progress. I actually haven't returned to the book for the past few months, but that doesn't mean I haven't stayed busy.

For starters, I've been reading. To me, reading is the ultimate homework for an author. In particular, I wanted to read works of some new, semi-undiscovered, authors in my genre (YA SciFi) to see if my novel would play nicely in the current market and how it might compare to other books out there. After that, I made a strong attempt to read works that were completely different from my own. Classic works, a couple of Stephen King, and two more mindless Robert Langdon adventures by Dan Brown. I even started reading drafts of some friends' respective works-in-progress. Honestly, I have loved everything I've been reading and it has made me all the more thirsty to get back to my own writing.

But, I haven't immediately to returned to my novel. Instead, I've done something I claimed that I would never do. I have started working on a totally new project, of a completely different length, genre, etc. It's been fun and has given me the break I've so needed.

(more on my mysterious new work, coming in a later blog, on some other day, when I'm feeling like elaborating.)

And this brings me back to what I'm always going on about. Take breaks. Read new stuff. Write new stuff. It'll end up making your old stuff, more than just stuff, all over again.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thoughts From a Beta-Reader

Last night, my manuscript was handed back to me (by my first beta-reader) with a ton of revision suggestions. Most everything was scribbled into the margins, but there was also an extra page handed to me with some overall thoughts and comments. We had an opportunity to sit down and talk through her notes, questions, concerns, etc. Here's what I learned:

  • Some of my characters are just written better than others. This was a little surprising to me, but I completely understood what my beta was saying. She felt that she just knew some of these folks super well and that others needed to be fleshed out more. Some of her most directed comments were about my protagonist. Eek. Sure, she's driving the plot and clearly central to the story... but, it was some of her supporting cast members that were the most vivid characters.
  • Some characters sounded too similar. This was extremely helpful. I didn't necessarily pick up on this while I was writing. It is super important for each character to have an entirely unique voice.
  • Word choice. There were some words/phrases that I used a bit too much. One in particular stood out to my beta: plopped. She commented that she saw it a few times and that she didn't think it really had a place in my novel... even once. Funny thing: I don't remember ever even using it.
  • Plot holes. She definitely dug some up and now it's my job to fill them back in. Fortunately, the two of us were able to chat about how I might do that. I already have a ton of great ideas.
  • Realistic injuries/healing time. She reminded me that my characters aren't Jack Bauer and that this isn't an episode of 24. She said that I need to make sure that injuries inflicted on my characters are given a realistic amount of healing time. She's right.
  • Consistency with a new alien language. The example given to me was Tolkien's use of language in LOTR/The Hobbit. She emphasized that when I allow a new species to speak in their own language that I must know exactly what they are saying at all times. There's needs to be consistency. If an alien character is saying "hello" in his/her own language, then he/she needs to say "hello" the same way each time. If I'm inconsistent, my readers will certainly notice.
There's more, of course, but this should give you an idea of some of the comments I received. I plan to spend today working on these revisions. I'm also giving myself a deadline of a week to make all of these fixes. I don't want it to sit too long before I hand it off to my next reader.

This is my process. As I always say, different authors won't necessarily do it this way, nor should they. Find your own process and make it work for you.

Keep checking back. Things are moving fast right now!