Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Five People You Meet at Book Signings (With apologies to Mitch Albom)

It never fails. No matter how many book signings I attend or where they are located, I inevitably meet the same five people. Well, not the exact same person, but the same characteristics and behaviors. Is it me or what?

1)      The person who is interested in every author, except you. This affable and chatty person will go on and on for great lengths of time extolling the attributes of their favorite authors and not once stopping to ask about your books or your writing. In is, in fact, as if all the books you have on display are invisible to them. They are unable to take visual and/or verbal cues from you and monopolize your attention so that it is very difficult for you to interact with other readers who stop by. Short of being rude, which I refuse to do, the only solution is to wait it out. Or . . . point them in the direction of another unsuspecting author.

2)      The person who has always dreamed of writing a book. This person will tell you that he/she has always wanted to write a book but for circumstances beyond their control, they have not done so yet. Then, they proceed to tell you in great detail those circumstances. Here are just a few that I’ve managed to remember: Daughter’s unemployed boyfriend moved into the house and makes too much noise, elderly pet’s gastrointestinal problems, need to find the perfect location to write a book but cannot afford to move to the Caribbean, and (my personal favorite) wanted an advance from a publishing company before they commit to writing the book. These gregarious folks will monopolize your time if you’re not careful. I always suggest joining a writer’s group or taking a course from a local college or adult learning program. Sometimes that works. Most of the time it doesn’t and I wind up exhausted from listening.

3)      The person who has written a book and doesn’t know what to do next. For those burgeoning authors who approach me in earnest, I take the time to give them as much information and support as possible. I’ve even gone as far as writing down helpful websites for them, including how to query agents and publishers or how to find options for self-publishing. From time to time I get authors whose “completed manuscripts” are handwritten in notebooks or, worse yet, on 5 x 7 file cards. Really! These are folks who never learned how to type and the nearest they have gotten to a computer is when their grandchild comes to visit with his/her laptop or tablet. Again, I try to provide them with information since many agencies and companies will do the typing for you. I stress the following – The more technical skills you have, the more cost effective this process will be. And conversely, the less you know, the more it will cost you!

4)      The person who tells you they don’t read. Unbelievable, huh?  I’m astonished myself when people step up to my booth or display and proceed to tell me that they don’t read. I’ve always wanted to ask them, “Then why the heck are you at a book event?” but I’ve never gotten up the nerve. My husband thought he had it figured out at our last event when he overheard someone on the phone and it went sort of like this:
“Yeah, we’re near the big tent. What? The free popcorn and soda are all the way back at the little tents? And they’re giving away candy and balloons? I’ll be right there!”
            So much for literary. It can’t compete with candy and balloons.

5)      The person who is genuinely interested in your writing. This is the moment every author yearns for – having someone approach them who is really curious about your writing and interested in what you have to say. I relish my interaction with readers who want to know more about my books, ideas, and literary endeavors. This is how every author grows readership and it’s vital to our survival. Promoting a book is one thing, making valued connections is quite another. These readers make everything possible for us and I’m extremely grateful.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Author Letter to Young Aspiring Writer

One of my young readers asked me if it was very difficult to get published and if I ever got rejected. This is my response. Please feel free to share it with any aspiring young writers that you may know.

Dear        ,

Thank you so much for your wonderful letter. You asked me some very insightful questions and I will try to answer them as best I can. You wondered if getting a novel published is very hard. Today, there are many options for publishing, including traditional publishing with a company, self-publishing where you actually use the tools to publish your own book, or vanity (sometimes called partnership publishing) which I do not recommend, since those are companies that charge you money to publish your books. 

I started out self-publishing and then was able to get a traditional publisher. I have a contract with them for six of my books. My first two novels are self-published. I have a ninth novel expected to be released in 2016. It took me five years to get a wonderful publisher. It can be a long process but it is definitely worth it. First, authors must send query letters to agents or publishers. These are letters that explain what the author is writing as well as the author’s request for an agent or publisher.

Authors send out many, many query letters before they get accepted. So yes, all of us get rejected by some agents or publishing companies. Famous authors, too, like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.  That’s just part of the business. It is nothing personal. The important thing to remember is to always have a polished manuscript before you contact an agent or publisher.

A polished manuscript is one that has few or no grammatical or spelling errors. The characters must be well developed and believable, and, the plot line must contain rising action, a climax and falling action. You should be learning all about this in your English classes. Sometimes books are rejected because the author did not take the time to proof read the book and have others proof read it first.

When your novel is ready to be published, you should ask some of your teachers to read it first as well as your school librarian. They can offer you support and suggestions.

Sometimes books are rejected simply because they are not what the agent or publisher is looking for at the time. Think of it like food. Sometimes you might be in the mood for a hamburger but not a pizza. That’s the same way in the publishing industry. Do not get discouraged and keep writing. If your first novel is not accepted immediately, work on the second one.

I know many authors whose first novels were not accepted but their second and third ones became very famous, such as the Twilight series.

You asked how I do it. Well, I come up with an idea as well as the characters. I use graphic organizers to outline my concept. (like webbing). There is no need for a formal outline when you are writing a novel since you are the only one who will be using it.

Then, I start writing. Sometimes as little as three hundred words a day and sometimes as much as three thousand. Each day is different. There is no right or wrong way for authors to write their novels. Each one of us has a different method. The trick is to keep writing every day or at least every other day so you don’t lose focus.

I hope this helps you out and I can’t wait to hear about your progress. Thank you so much for contacting me.


Ann I. Goldfarb

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It Finally Happened! I've Been Contacted by a Time Traveler!

Frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. After all, I’ve been writing time travel novels for over five years. The genre itself, time travel, absolutely screams fiction, but hey, what do I know? A few days ago I received an email via my website from someone claiming to be a time traveler. Yep, that’s right, a time traveler. And not just one of your “run-of-the-mill” time travelers but one who, according to his own words, “doesn’t want to hang around this crappy time period much longer” and will answer three questions for me providing I don’t contact the government.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen any time soon on both accounts. But I have to be honest; I’m thrilled my website is getting some attention. 

My web designer, who teaches meditation and self-help, says that she gets all sorts of these emails all the time. Wow. I’m lucky if someone just wants to buy an autographed copy of one of my novels. And while I did not return the email, I found myself jotting down the three questions (and related sub-questions). So here goes:

1      Crappy time period? Compared to what? The Inquisition? The Fall of the Roman Empire? World Wars I and II? 

2       Contact the government? Heck, I can’t even get through to the IRS to request forms. So who do you think I’m going to reach regarding a time traveler? 

3      Are you from the past or the future? And if you’re from the past, how did you manage to get an email account so quickly? And if you’re from the future, do I ever manage to pay off my mortgage? My car loan? My vet bill?

I didn’t bother to get into the logistics of how this person was able to travel through time. I perseverate over all of that whenever I write a new novel. But on the off-chance that this person is actually reading my blog, he should get acquainted with the rules for time travel. After all, every fictional character seems to know them.

1)      Never, under any circumstance, reveal that you traveled through time. You will automatically be labeled a “nutcase” and lose any validity you may have. 

2)      Don’t open your mouth unless you’re absolutely sure you can speak using the vocabulary and expressions of the time you are in.

3)      Don’t call attention to yourself – dress for the right time and be circumspect. (A lesson EB Lyner learned in The Last Tag – Speak Less – Listen More).

Meantime, I’ll be scrutinizing my emails just in case another time traveler comes along. And hopefully one who likes this time period as well as my novels!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Move Over H.G. Wells, Thornton Wilder Just Came On Board

I don’t know why Thornton Wilder’s classic 1938 play, Our Town, popped into my mind but it’s been lingering there for a few days and I suddenly realized why – it was, after all, a time travel piece! An unlikely, metatheatrical time travel piece that anyone over the age of 60 will remember. After all, it was a standard high school production along with one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. 

Usually, when we think of time travel, we envision time machines, formulas, and supernatural devices. That’s why it struck me as so odd that such a timeless play as Our Town really ventured into the world of time travel. But it did, and it left audiences wondering the great “what if.”

            What if we could go back in time to re-live an ordinary day like Emily Webb did when she returned to Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, to re-live her 12th birthday. That’s the stuff of time travel. For Emily, it was too heart-breaking and she had to return to her grave. But for most of us, the temptation would far outweigh the sadness. 

            Imagine seeing old friends and family and knowing what’s in store for them? Would you keep it to yourself or let them in on it? I’d be more than happy to share the universal generalities that I’ve learned: 

             "Chocolate is actually good for you."
            “Wearing a girdle is bad for you.”
            “The water in canned vegetables is probably more nutritious than the vegetables.”
            “White bread will eventually kill you.”
            “You’ll never keep up with technology – financially and otherwise.”

            I’m not so sure I’d want to share some of the more personal stuff:

            “Don’t hire Kimberly as your nanny! She’ll wind up having an affair with your husband.”
            “Don’t ride on Space Mountain. You’re going to throw-up and be banned from Disney World.”
            “Opening your own winery/bread & breakfast/organic restaurant is not a good idea.”
            And when would we want to go back? At age 12, 21, 34? Personally, I’d pick age 14 and find myself screaming in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater as the Beatles gave their first U.S. performance. I have a cousin who would pick age 20- something as long as he was following Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead.

            But I’ll tell you what I won’t pick:

            My first day in algebra class.
            My first night at Camp Mohegan.
            Taking the Amtrak across the U.S. with less than fifty bucks to my name.

            Thornton Wilder wanted his audience to appreciate the universality of life. Of course most of us who left the theater were too busy sobbing our eyes out. That’s why I like to keep a lighter approach to time travel. Still, if you combining sentimentality to the time-space continuum, you may just want to re-read this one. But don’t be looking for any high school performances any time soon. They’ve moved on to 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse and A Seussified Christmas Carol.