Author Archives: Laine Cunningham

About Laine Cunningham

Laine Cunningham is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and publishing consultant who has been quoted on CNN Money, MSNBC.com, FoxNews.com, and other national and international media. Her novels interweave social, cultural, historical, political and spiritual movements that have occurred within different groups and at different times. These elements engage readers in discussions of how similar forces have changed or are changing the contemporary world…and what might lie in our future. When individuals recognize how large issues build over time from multiple small steps, they recognize that everyone can foment change through their choices and their decisions. Her work has won multiple national awards, including the Hackney Literary Award and the James Jones Literary Society fellowship. In past years, the Hackney Award was received by Horton Foote and William Styron, placing her in the ranks of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. She has received dozens of fellowships and residency slots from programs like the Jerome Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Mills Cultural Center, Wildacres Center for the Humanities, Arte Studio Ginestrelle in Assisi, Italy, the TAKT Kunstprojektraum in Berlin, Germany, Fusion Art in Turin, Italy and The Hambidge Center. Her nonfiction books include "Writing While Female or Black or Gay: Diverse Voices in Publishing," which includes tips on re-engineering the publishing industry with grassroots actions. She is also the author of the travel memoir "Woman Alone: A Six-Month Journey Through the Australian Outback" and a series of Zen and Wisdom books combining unique inspirational text with beautiful photos.

Book Review: Between Two Fires by Mark Noce

Here is a repost of a book review from last year. I’ll have a review of the second title in this series posting on December 8, so be ready for the latest on this historical series!

Writer's Resource Blog

Release date: August 2016 from Thomas Dunne Books

This power-packed historical novel is the first in a series…and it’s going to have readers beating on the publisher’s door for more.

Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that historical fiction can be a real slough. In the wrong author’s hands, novels set in any time period earlier than maybe 20 years ago can bog down in details…what folks wore, how they acted, the mores of their society, what their culture told them was right, how they rebelled…endless, really.

But in a strong author’s hands, historical fiction is a true delight. And that’s what Noce has delivered with Between Two Fires: a work that moves along briskly while providing everything they need to know to dive into the period. Never once will readers be left wondering, “What. What? Who? How did that happen?”

Part of the strength of this work…

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Author Interview: Wendy Gilhula

Last week, I wrote about Gilhula’s debut children’s picture book, Pika Bunny and the Thunderstorm. This week, you’ll hear directly from the author!

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First, she wanted to share her journey to creating this story and the other adventures of Pika Bunny. She writes:

While tutoring math in my home in Knoxville, TN, one of my students looked around at my small downstairs and innocently asked, “So, what do you do all day before tutoring?”

I just looked at him and smiled. What I wanted to say was, “Oh, I write children’s books that no one is ever going to read.”

But I kept thinking about his question. More importantly, I kept thinking about my answer! I decided to be brave and find a professional to help me in areas where I did not feel confident. That was the best move I could have made.

So, writers, be brave! Follow your dreams. Keep working, and reach out for help when you need it.

Now, here are the rest of Gilhula’s thoughts.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

The advice I would give to a new writer would be some of the same advice that I gave to myself.

  1. Just write. If you have a story to tell, tell it.
  2. Show your work to someone. Notice that I didn’t say, “Share your work.” Share sounds too intimidating. But don’t hide your work in a drawer for twenty-five years like I did, either!
  3. Pay a professional to look at your work on an artistic level, for consistency, and for editing and grammar in general.
  4. Join SCBWI or start networking in your area to meet people and share experiences.
  5. You are never too old to start. (I’m 52.)

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

After college, I was a modern dance choreographer and instructor for almost twenty years. My creative brain has always worked while I am sleeping. The minute I awoke, I already had concepts and some of the choreography. Even today, as I have been a math tutor for almost fifteen years now, I will wake up with an answer to a problem that I didn’t have time to finish the night before.

In the morning, I will have my coffee and work on the latest ideas that I have for a book or my current project. After that, it is a total break for the day as I give try to give my students my full attention.

As an artist, I’ve always been told that I don’t think like everyone else. When I was younger, I didn’t like that comment, because I wanted to be like everyone else. Now that I am older, I embrace the difference.

As a human being, one moment I can I feel like I’m freely walking and weaving a path between art and humanity, and the next I feel like I’m tripping on air.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Since I’m just newly published, I do not have a full understanding of the industry. But I can say that money and promotion are probably the biggest challenges.

What books are you currently reading?

Currently, I am reading books by my cousin, Scott Christopher Beebe, who does not believe in editing whatsoever. His writing is exposed and raw. Some of his thoughts progress halfway down the page before you see any punctuation.

These books are not my usual choices, and not my usual choice of words (and types of adult themes). But there is something transparent and crude about how he thinks that is intriguing and sometimes haunting.

Most days I like to read books on topics that I would not typically write about, like mystery.

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

I gravitate to new writers of children’s picture books that aren’t getting the big publishing house launches. Those writers who must create everything to launch their own work into the world intrigue me because of their sheer passion.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Since I wake up with the actual drive, my tactics are more of getting the ideas to stop and slow down. Then I can evaluate and experiment. Not every idea is a good one on its own, but it may be the start of something that I want to pursue and explore.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

The next step in the Pika Bunny Learning Series is to illustrate the second book. Adrianna Allegretti is working on the illustrations now for Pika Bunny Has a Big Question. This one is due to drop in spring of 2018. It will be published by Apollo Publications.

A really different project is also underway. The illustrations for that are by Alexandria Walker. Mother’s Best is a rhyming picture book that is not part of the Pika Bunny series.

Anything else you think people should know about you, the book, or your process?

If there is a magic formula for writing, it would have to consist of investing the time and effort to write, being willing to display your soul (just a little at a time), trusting others to help you, and believing in yourself.

 

 

Cutest Dual-language Picture Book!

English-Spanish Hardcover resizedJuvenile author Wendy Gilhula has sent me a copy of her debut work. Pika Bunny and the Thunderstorm has some of the sweetest illustrations I’ve seen in a long time!

Gilhula and I worked together some years ago on prose and poetry she had written. The ideas she had just would not let her go. One of them was a series of stories about a bunny named Pika.

Pika Bunny explores the world and illustrates the most touching elements of the parent-child relationship. After Gilhula put her ideas down on paper, she found a publisher who wanted not just one of the works, but several.

Today she is celebrating because Pika Bunny has found life in several formats. The debut story is available in paperback and hardbound versions. There are also English-only and Spanish-English editions, for a total of four versions!

When I received my copy, I reread the story that had demanded the author’s time and focus. Pika Bunny is frightened by a thunderstorm. Then he learns all the good things about rain and thunder. Pika Bunny triumphs over his fear!

PikaBedWashFrom the first page, I really was taken in by the illustrations. Adrianna Allegretti is the illustrator here.

Like most children’s books, the illustrations stay focused on the characters. In a few places, however, Allegretti opts to draw only the storm or other elements of nature.

The combination of the characters in nature, in their cozy interior spaces, and the ones that allow nature to roam free across the page lend this work a particular feeling readers will love.

One of the coolest things about Pika Bunny is that the work is available in a dual-language version. The story is told in Spanish and English, with the same text running in both languages on the same page.

The work has been nominated for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s (SCBWI’s) Golden Kite Award. 

Of special note is the dedication in the front of the book. Gilhula thanks a number of individuals, all by listing their first names and the first initial of their last name. These are all kids who were her beta readers!

She wanted to honor the contributions of these dedicated fans. And here she has, while also preserving their identities and therefore their safety.

Want more of this cuteness and sweet words? Tune in next week for an interview with author Wendy Gilhula!

Book Trailers That Turn Heads

Today I want to introduce you (again) to an individual who is a fantastic resource for every author who is serious about selling their books.

TFMODustFrontCover (1)Aleksandar Tomov has done several videos for my books. Two are traditional trailer videos that focus on the books. The first novel, The Family Made of Dust, won two national awards and was shortlisted for a third honor.

Dust was rejected by the big publishers because they didn’t believe people would be interested in the journey of a biracial man who searches the Australian Outback for a missing friend. It’s an adventure/family drama/diverse tale that one reader, after finishing the book, said, “Well, I’ll be damned,” and then turned back to the first page to read it again!

The trailer Tomov created for this one is on my YouTube channel here. The videos he pulled together blend Aboriginal traditions, Outback vistas, and a darkening music track to really capture the flavor of The Family Made of Dust. The trailer, like the book, makes you want to travel to Australia and experience the Outback for yourself.

The year after Dust came out, many readers had asked for more information about Aboriginal lives and their cultures. Readers were very interested in how the protagonist had applied his traditions to solve the issues he faced in his life, so I pulled together a collection of Aboriginal folktales that could help modern people around the world.

SSFrontB&WIn Seven Sisters: Spiritual Messages from Aboriginal Australia, essays describe how traditional people used these stories, and how that wisdom applies today. The book is very popular with fans of The Secret, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, and readers of Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, and Paul Coelho.

The video Tomov put together for this book is very different. In fact, it doesn’t look much like a book trailer at all. The fact that individuals can share this video simply for the beauty of the images and the message of women’s empowerment means that it has been shared widely.

The video, available here, is longer than a book trailer, too, because the song needs it to be. That hasn’t stopped people from watching, sharing, and sending me messages about it! Trailers can help your Google rankings, too.

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My next two novels, Beloved and Reparationare dark tales that mix the fantasy elements of Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and China Mieville (The Kraken) with the literary sensibility of Ursula Le Guin (the Earthsea series, The Left Hand of Darkness, and many, many others).

The trailer Tomov provided for Reparation is spectacular. It’s the creepiest one, and really captures the darkness of the story.Check it out here, and then connect with Tomov here! His rates are truly affordable at only 120 euros. At today’s conversion rate, that’s under $140. At that rate, a book trailer could be one of the least expensive promos you’ve ever bought!

Interview with Jendi Reiter, Author and Cofounder of WinningWriters.com

Winning_Writers_logoToday we have a real treat. Jendi Reiter, one of the cofounders of WinningWriters.com, set aside a generous amount of time to answer some burning questions. The site and its newsletter are fantastic resources for authors of every type. It was great to be able to ask about their mission and how authors can get help just by signing up to their free newsletter.

Best of all, two of her books are currently on sale! So, after reading all about the newsletter and the great resources, you can snap up copies for yourself. Links are at the bottom of this post!

You started Winning Writers back in 2001 with Adam Cohen. Now you have quite a staff, each of whom handle different areas or programs. How do you find such great people?

Thanks for the kind words about our amazing assistant editors and judges. A great thing about being an online business is that we can work with freelancers from all over the country—or the world!

We found two of our Best Free Literary Contests database editors, including our current editor Samantha Dias, through the Western New England Editorial Freelancers’ Network. Sam is diligent, creative, detail-oriented, and proactive about brainstorming ways to improve the database. Find her on LinkedIn for your academic editing jobs, but don’t take her away from us!

Several of our past and current contest judges were prizewinners in those same contests. We invited them because they were already in tune with the contest’s aesthetic, and the skill level of their own work gave us confidence in their ability to recognize quality entries.

Others were local writer friends, such as award-winning poet Ellen LaFleche, or friends of friends—we joke that one of our babysitters is the Winning Writers HR director because she’s recommended several people we ended up hiring. Nearly everyone in Northampton is a writer or knows a writer, it seems!

Additionally, we reach out to subscribers whose work we admire, like 2017 fiction and essay judge Judy Juanita, and contacts that I’ve made through my poetry and fiction publications, like poetry contest judge Soma Mei Sheng Frazier, who was the editor of OSA Enizagam when one of my stories won their contest.

WW offers several contests every year with significant prizes. What is the thought process behind taking on so many contest programs, considering that most arts organizations offer only one?

Something for everybody! We’re always tweaking our contest offerings in response to perceived demand and the gaps we see in the marketplace. The free Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest is fun to judge, generates signups for our email list, and originally also had a scam-busting mission. (The vanity contest that inspired it has since gone out of business—we must be powerful!) There aren’t many contests for parody and humor poems, and the few that exist tend to prefer G-rated light verse that isn’t super original, in my opinion.

Everyone loves a good general-interest poetry and prose contest, so those are consistent earners for us, with over a thousand entries apiece in a good year. The North Street Book Prize for self-published books is meant to signal-boost great books that don’t have the insider connections and marketing budget to compete with major publishers in the marketplace.

Self-published, indie, and print-on-demand (POD) books are often at a disadvantage or straight-up ineligible for prestigious literary prizes. Meanwhile, the book awards programs that do welcome indies have large fees and frequently no cash prize—what are you paying for? We believe indie authors deserve better.

Your section on Contests and Services to Avoid is set up for very good reasons. I have noticed that a number of good organizations are suddenly demanding that authors who submit–whether they win, place, or are simply part of the ones who never make any short- or longlist–give them rights to publish part or all of their work. Often these nonprofits claim that the publications will help support the organization and their contests. What do you think of this approach, when it is taken by an otherwise respectable organization?

I am completely against this approach. No author should have to sign away their intellectual property merely for the privilege of entering a contest. If you don’t win or get published, the work you submitted to the contest is stuck in limbo—you can’t try to make money off it elsewhere, on the off chance that this contest will someday use it. At that point the contest starts to look like a scam to acquire a lot of free work from authors, instead of paying freelancers to contribute to their website or journal.

I especially dislike this trend when the contest advertises itself as “free” up front, and the rights grab is hidden in the long list of rules. I always push back against this when contest sponsors ask to be listed in the database, and I’m happy to report that sometimes they change the rules.

What, in your opinion, is the best part of heritage (i.e., traditional) publishing today?

Access to major distribution and marketing channels is an important advantage that will continue as long as reviewers, booksellers, and other gatekeepers persist in their prejudice against print-on-demand and self-published books.

Best part of the indie route?

More control over the content and book design. Not having to shop your manuscript around for years to an agent or traditional publisher.

What do you enjoy most about working on WW?

People send me free books! I get paid (more or less) to read interesting poetry and prose and to think critically about what makes it work, or not work. This is good for my development as a writer. I also love the opportunity to connect with writers and editors around the world.

What part would you like to see become easier, or larger, or farther-reaching?

We would like to see a more diverse entry pool for all of our contests. Except for the book prize, they’re all judged anonymously, but white ladies somehow end up in the majority in our winners’ lists. We’re working on our outreach to minority writers’ communities, as well as inviting judges from different backgrounds to join our contest staff.

What exciting things are in the pipeline for WW?

By popular demand, we’re adding two new categories to our 2018 North Street Book Prize for self-published books: poetry and children’s picture books. The other categories are creative nonfiction/memoir, literary fiction, and commercial/genre fiction.

Our 2018 final judge for the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest will be Dennis Norris II. He is a 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellow, fiction editor of Apogee Journal, and co-host of the podcast Food 4 Thot, a brilliant (NSFW) series with four multiethnic gay poets discussing literature and their love lives.

Jendi Reiter is the co-founder of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site for creative writers, named one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” (Writer’s Digest, 2015-2016) and one of the “100 Best Websites for Writers” (The Write Life, 2016).

TN C 11 02Jendi’s award-winning books include the poetry collection Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree Publishing) and the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press), the spiritual coming-of-age story of a NYC fashion photographer during the 1990s AIDS crisis. Two Natures is on sale for 99 cents in Kindle and iBooks editions through October 15, 2017.

WW Newsletter: Thanks for your interest in Winning Writers! Sign up for the free monthly e-newsletter to receive access to The Best Free Literary Contest database, and join 96,000 Twitter followers.

 

On seeing and being seen

Yesterday I came across a New York Times article about a guy who listened to all the records on NPR’s list of greatest music by women. Whenever he talked about his dedication to hearing all the music on the list, people were shocked that he would be listening to “women’s music.”
Now, “women’s music” is, according to him, a genre that (as he describes it) is one woman and a guitar. Folksy, perhaps. But specific. And not the kind that is widely popular.
Even though he constantly said no, he was listening to “music by women” rather than “women’s music,” the misunderstandings continued.
It reminded me, painfully, of the idea in publishing and among readers (and reviewers, and art organizations that provide awards) that fiction about women is “women’s fiction” (i.e., chick lit or romance or fill in the blank with whatever genre is currently considered the lowest of the lowbrow). Or, on the wildly mistaken far end of that opinion, that fiction written by women is also always women’s fiction.
Then my partner, who is a woodworker and is reading the book of a woman who has made a name for herself as a woodworker, shared this article.
Let’s change publishing, fiction, and reading (and thus the world) by having parity for women in publishing options, review options, marketing deals, and awards opportunities.

Lost Art Press

PWNov09CVRrevised2 A knockout indeed

I’ve lost track of how many times people have written “So great to see a woman in the magazine!” following the publication of a project feature. For years I’d roll my eyes and think Never mind my gender. WHAT ABOUT THE WORK?

It’s thorny, this issue of gender representation in woodworking. You can say pretty much the same about race. When you’re the odd one out, it’s easy for readers to see only what makes you different. Which is galling when, for you, what matters is the work.

While I was on hold during a recent phone call, I glanced at Instagram and found myself tagged by Sarah Marriage at A Workshop of Our Own. She was commenting on a post by Phoebe Kuo. “Have you heard about our woodshop drinking game?” asked Sarah. “You take a shot every time you see a woman depicted working…

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