WRITE DIRTY, LADIES

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I recently wrote a novel with my c0-author Jason Davis called Hair Club Burning. It is a mystery, a May-December (the woman is December) love story, a caper tale, and, most importantly, a microcosm of race, a dream, a flight of fancy of how black and white can live together, making each other stronger and whole.

Throughout the book, themes of love and lust, friendship and trust, acceptance and fear, betrayal and crime intertwine. White crime is hidden in the back rooms and shell companies – Panama Papers anyone?  – and black crime runs red in the streets. My grudging conclusion was that the OGs (Old Gangsters) were indeed living a more authentic life.  That authentic life was also going to kill them. The whites just danced with the notion of Club Fed.

What I was not prepared for, as an author, was the strange reaction to the three sex scenes between the young black protagonist and older white woman. I had to walk away from a lifetime friendship because of my old, once-beloved friend’s reaction to the interracial sex. (She’s a Texan but still, there is NO excuse.) Reviewers expressed an uncomfortable feeling in their reactions to this love affair and a call-in to a radio station actually asked me, “What does your husband think of you writing this book?”

Let me be clear: I will write about any subject I wish for as long as I am alive and able to write. The word FICTION applies to the work of women and my mind is allowed to wander anywhere in the Universe it pleases. I will write as a man; I will write as a woman. I will shape-shift and taunt and make as many think, as many feel uncomfortable, as long as I can. I will also pass along Joy and new ideas and thoughts on ecstatic ways to live. I am a free bitch baby (thanks, Lady GaGa) and I will write as one.

I’m a woman, a lady sometimes, and I write dirty.

To order our “dirty” book, click on DIRTY.

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Make The Words Go Faster

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/beth wareham

In my long, lonely corporate publishing career, I read way too much. Some of it still haunts me, strange sexual longings and random violence that popped up in the strangest of manuscripts and proposals. But most of it just bored me silly. I remember reading this long passage of a Hollywood “Dermatologist to the Stars” who rushed to a starlet’s house to pop her pimple with a Q-tip so it didn’t read on the camera the next day. And we wonder why movie folk get so infantilized.

But that pimple was a good day. I still remember it, right? What I don’t remember are long, meandering stories with little plot and lots of author ego. I remember novels (my colleagues’ favorites) whose prose had been picked clean like a European forest. Perfect. Beautiful. Bloodless.

Give me blood. Give me fast and raw and take me somewhere. I don’t want a perfect 2 hour moment of strolling though the Vienna Woods, I want to feel, move, challenge, fight, fuck, love, retreat, surge forward, and maybe win, maybe not. I want life.

How to convey that speed, that rawness? First, get the right story. Only you know what the right story is. It’s the one that gets your blood up, the story you want to rise to and conquer. Next, read other stories  you admire. Watch how writers write raw and fast. It’s plot, word choice and length of sentence, graph, chapter, book. If you can’t get it done in 60,000 – 80,000 words, rethink it. And, I’d even shoot for a shorter book: 50,000 sounds good these days.

Get real. Your competition is Homeland on Showtime and Fargo on FX. Your competition is 24 hour war coverage, the weasel that dances atop Donald Trump’s head, and all the shiny things the internet throws up that keeps you surfing for hours.

Here is a short list of books that changed the way I thought about the velocity of narrative. Or, as my husband says, “they know how to write clean.”

My Traitor’s Heart by Rian Malan

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

The White Album by Joan Didion

There many more. I hope you tell me some of your favorites because I’ve been watching way too much on-demand. And just as I had to change for my health and eat clean, my brain needs a’washing and I want to read clean. Help me.

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Children and Grief: An excerpt from Gabriel Horn’s novel MOTHERLESS

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To order Motherless, free on KINDLE UNLIMITED, click on the title.

by Gabriel Horn

… love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
– Khalil Gibran

She was five and half years old….

It hurt to see his only granddaughter so gloomy, but it was her right, for everyone needs time to grieve. Even him. Still, it was heartbreaking, observing her little form on occasion, gazing through the screen door, her brown eyes following the trail past the front yard that snaked toward the mailbox where the pink lilies were getting ready to bloom. She was looking at them now….

“You know, when you were still forming in your mother’s belly, she planted those flowers.”

She shook her head, but kept her eye on the lilies. “They’re pretty.”
“In a few days, they’ll be stunning and yet so subtle….”

He explained that the lady who owns the beach shop, Irene Glassman, had given them to her mom. “They were so small and kinda sad lookin’ in these big pots. Didn’t have flowers. I remember your mom carrying those pots up to the mailbox. One at a time. There must’ve been six of ‘em. ‘Maggie,’ I said, ‘let me help you carry those pots.’ But she just shook her head, face sweatin’ and all, and instead, insisted she do it alone. It was a hot day and she worked for hours plantin’ those flowers, digging holes along that ditch….”

The young girl’s eyes strained.

“Ye can’t see the ditch because the flowers are tall now.”

She glanced up at her grandfather, then again looked up the driveway at the lilies.

“Can’t ever forget how she cut herself while plantin’ the last one.”

“How’d she do that?”

“She’d told me that she knelt down heavy on a shard of sharp shell. She was wearin’ a sundress at the time. The shell cut her knee open pretty good. She bled a lot. Needed stitches as I recall…. wound up with a small scar.”

The young girl with long hair like her mother’s, but auburn brown, not black, stared up at the road, and half a world away from where she’d been, still expecting, still wanting, someone to appear.

What could be sadder than a child’s grief?

AND WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF THE EARTH….

Dead is dead, the bus driver had said. And she knew he was right; the tiny tree frog was dead, and a little girl was learning that death means never coming back. The pretty frog would not be listening to the singing of the male tree frogs that night as an angry off-shore storm, responding to their mourning songs, would bring a deluge of rain that would fall and finally free the dead frog from the corroded barrel, and in the little girl’s mind she could see in that instance of pouring rain, the small stiffened body sliding down the ugly drum into the once purified water that all her life had sustained her. The little girl could even see beyond the dump site, the tiny lifeless form carried in the night songs of the other tree frogs with the rushing water on towards the womb of the great mother of all life, the Ocean.

DEATH TEACHES US HOW TO LIVE

Rainy was in third grade and was sitting at the kitchen table. Grandpa was leaning against the kitchen counter. She wanted to know more about her father who was not Indian….

“What about my dad?” she asked, sliding a chunk of mango in her mouth.

“Your father,” he said, taking a drink of coffee, “he still felt that tribal connection. He still had not lost touch with his Indigenous spiritual being. Which was probably why he fell so in love with your mother, and she in love with him.”

Then he sighed, a slight sound of air leaving with his breath that he didn’t mean to make, something that loss and remembered grief can cause you to do sometimes when you’re not even aware of how much you still miss those you loved….

GRIEF: IT’S A PART OF THE HUMAN CONDITION…

Rainy was just completing eighth grade at the time, and had taken the news of Mrs. Kingsley’s passing hard. Sadie couldn’t seem to console her, nor Koda, nor Grandpa. After weeks had past, finally, one day Grandpa and Rainy sat together on the porch steps after school. Koda sat behind them, sensing something in the air. The bamboo wind chime Grandpa had bought at the beach store was playing it seemed its first music in the sudden arrival of a tropical breeze from the South.

“Rain,” Grandpa began, “we’ve each known grief. It’s a part of the human condition. It’s a terrible feelin’. But it’s a necessary part of healin’.”

She was looking down and running her fingers over the turquois edge of the step. Before the renewal she might’ve gotten a splinter from the rough wood, but Grandpa had sure smoothed it out.

“I know,” she said.

“I know ye know. But please hear me out…as I love ye, and I understand you’re hurtin’.”

He paused and settled alongside her, and like always, trying to find the right the words. The bamboo chime played above them and the brown oak leaves rustled on the ground and bird sounds permeated the air.

“Grief can cling to ye, Granddaughter. It can stick to you like the sap of an oak in winter. “Stay stuck with ye all day. You can’t wash it off. You sleep with it at night. You wake up and it’s still there in the mornin’.”

“I know, Granpa. I’m sorry,” she said, a warm soft breeze lifting her hair. “I’ve been sad too long for my own good.”

“You got nothin’ to be sorry for, sweetheart. I’d been more worried if ye didn’t hurt. The world lost a great teacher. You lost a special friend.”

She shrugged and nodded and smiled just a little…. “I’ve not been a pleasant person to be around,” she said, turning her head to face the wolf.

“I’m sorry to you too, Koda.” He acknowledged the sentiment, but was still tuned to the air. And to the spirit that had arrived.

Rainy stared ahead at the rutted driveway, snaking towards the road, the mailbox at the end. She saw that the lilies were blooming. After the shadow man had run them over, they came back…. After all these years, she thought. But some things don’t come back…. Yet she was learning that they can, just not in ways we might expect….

“It’s only that Mrs. Kingsley’s dying raised up all these feelings I used to have, Granpa, and I feel bad she doesn’t get to teach anymore.”

“Grief can trigger those kinda memories and feelin’s, Rainy. But ye got a young heart, and it’s a strong heart. As ye get older in life, you’ll need a strong heart because you care so much and love so much. Those ye love get older too, and they die. It hurts every time, but just be certain that you’re grievin’ Mrs. Kingsley’s absence in your life, and not grievin’ for her. You can even grieve for the children who will never know her, but do not grieve for her. She’s in the Mystery.”

Rainy didn’t want to think beyond the moment, couldn’t think beyond it, but Grandpa’s words played in the notes of the bamboo wind chime. And he glanced up at it, his eyes gleaming, and then looked at Rainy who was also looking up at the hollow bamboo tubes of different lengths playing music in the gentle southern breeze.

“Mrs. Kingsley was pretty like that, and her words played in your ear, gentle like that too.”

“They did, indeed,” Grandpa said. Then he stood and stretched and put his face closer to the wind chime. “The road never gets easier, Granddaughter,” he said, speaking as much to himself as to her. “You just learn to cope better…understand a little more.”

Sitting back down on the step, he glanced up again at the music of the chime, and he smiled.

He took two fingers of his hand, the forefinger and the middle finger, and he touched Rainy’s heart. “All those ye loved, Rainy, are inside… here,” he said. Then he touched her forehead. “And in here…. In your memories. In your stories.”

Then he kissed the top of her head.

The bamboo tubes played above them in a warm southern gust of salty air.

“They’re a part of everything.”

He leaned his back against the steps, gazing with more than his eyes past the driveway, past the jungle of trees, across the road construction, and the steel and concrete support beams of new development. His vision sailed over the remaining dunes and last of endangered sea oats, and out to the turquoise sea.

“We have to let go at some point, as their spirit must continue the great change,” he said, “not hindered by our grief….

“As for the livin’,” he said, gazing back prophetically into the soft brown eyes of his granddaughter, and taking her hand, “the living must carry on for all those beings we love in this life who are still here.”

To order MOTHERLESS, click on the title. It’s free on amazon’s Kindle Unlimited
Visit Gabe at www.nativeEarthwords.com

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Newly Found Short Work (Written in 1950) by Celebrated Author Ruth Sidransky

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By Ruth Sidransky

I don’t remember whether I was eight or nine or ten. I might have been twelve, probably ten. I do remember that we lived in Brooklyn somewhere near the waterfront, so near that water rats were not an uncommon part of my childhood. We were poor and I was the youngest of seven, the only son.
My mother supported us all. Poppa was too old. He had given up the New World struggle when he began to gray. My mother died without a gray hair, without time for philosophy, without leisure; she died as she lived, working. She was a square woman, with short pudgy hands, jet curly hair and high Slavic cheekbones.
Every morning she’d rise two hours before the family, poke the stove in the basement, straighten up whatever mess there was from the night before, she was not famous for the order and cleanliness of her household, rush to the market, buy whatever she could with what little she had for the first meal of the day. Upon her return from the market she would rouse Poppa.
Grabbing one of her pudgy hands he always said, “Yes, mien kind, I am up.” In the space of no time we were brushed out of our beds and into our clothes that she had ready for us. Breakfast was quick. Some jam, black bread, a little tea from the huge brass samovar on the old round walnut table. And we were whooshed out of the house.
Somehow I always managed to wait for her under the steps of our ugly old house, wait until she emerged so that I could walk proudly with her to Havemayer Street. Within minutes she was out, carrying a large paper bag on one arm, and a black worn shopping bag on the other arm. Each bag was full, brimming with buttons and thimbles, needles and thread, bits and scraps of elastic for ladies bloomers, men’s armbands and what have you, bright cheap rayon ribbon and more bits and scraps at the bottom of each bag.
Our meeting each morning was a surprise. Momma never expected me to be there. I should have been on my way to school.
“Benny what are you doing here?”
I smiled.
“Hurry, you’ll be late for school.”
She would rush me along the street. I never noticed her woolen gloves with the tips of the thumb and forefinger cut out. I never noticed her heavy non-descript brown woolen stockings, her sweater sticking out of the shabby black cuff of her coat, her thick black babushka wrapped securely around her head. This was her uniform to keep out the blasting cold as she kept her vigil all day long at her Havemayer Street pushcart.
“Momma?”
“No Benny!”
“Please Momma.”
“You cannot stand mit me. Go to school Benny, go with your friends.”
I never won. I ended up in school: fall, winter, and spring. I wonder now if I shall ever be as wise as Momma.
———————————————————————————————–

She would stand all day, from eight-thirty in the morning until dusk. She knew to the penny how much her supply of buttons and thimbles cost her. And each hour she could calculate her profit. At the end of the day, if it was a good day, she might have made three dollars. It was never much more than two dollars, and if the weather was especially foul seventy-five cents was all she could expect. At dusk she would rush to the market to buy food for our evening meal, hoarding just a little money for the next morning’s bread.
As much as I loved her, I had other problems, other considerations. I wanted something very much. I have never wanted anything so much since that time. Not too far from Momma’s pushcart an Arcade opened. It should have been a penny arcade, especially in those days. It wasn’t. It was a nickel arcade. Each day on my way home from school I’d pass the arcade with my nose pressed to the glass. There was no glass. I could walk in with the other boys in the class, the boys whose fathers had stores, butcher shops, egg shops, milk stores and watch their faces tickle with glee as they pressed their noses to the mock glass. My pockets were important then. I’d push my hands in as far as they would go, look down at the floor in the Arcade, shuffle my worn shoes in the sawdust and mumble some important phrases.
“Where’s your nickel Benny?”
“I got a nickel but it’s home, yeah, it’s home.”
“Gaway, I don’t believe ya.”
That was Meyer Levin, the rabbi’s son. I hated him. But I remembered what Momma always said when I complained about him.
“Be nice to him. That’s the rabbi’s child. Benny behave! Don’t say no more against him.”
Momma’s words flashed through my mind. So I didn’t punch Meyer Levin. I kicked my feet together. I didn’t say a word. I turned around and went for the exit.
“Hey Benny, don’t get sore, I was only foolin’.”
“I gotta help my mother. I’ll see you tomorrow in school.”
“Okay, but bring some nickels and we’ll come here at three o’clock.”
I kicked up the sawdust to the door and then walked out into the lightly falling snow. It was almost four, and by four thirty it would be almost dark. Momma was waiting. I couldn’t face her. My greedy conscience couldn’t either. If I did go I wouldn’t know what to say to her. I had to think up a story, a good one and not a lie. The problem was pressing. I couldn’t think. And then I heard Momma’s voice.
“Benny!” I heard the cry of anxiety in her voice.
How could I walk so fast? I had nothing to say to Momma.
“Benny, where were you? It’s almost dark. The market closes soon.”
“I’m sorry. We were playing and I forgot the time.”
“All right Benny, all right. Help me close up.”
I held up the open bag and Momma swept all her unsold merchandise into it. The other bag would remain empty. It had been a good day. I wanted to ask for a nickel, perhaps two nickels.
Momma grabbed the tattered awning she used to cover her pushcart. “It was a good day today, two dollars and seventy-nine cents. We can have meat, the first time this week. Poppa will like that. I have some kasha in the house. Onions I have to buy. We have enough bread. A little tea. Some shmaltz. Maybe even a cucumber salad. Benny, my little Benny, what would you like to eat tonight? We can buy something special for you too.”
I was only a small boy. I felt the heat of shame as it crept over my face. I never asked for the nickel.
“Nothing Momma”, I said.
“You sure my little one, I want you should have something extra.”
“Another time Momma, when you make three dollars ask me again.”
She patted my head.
I don’t remember dinner that night. I don’t remember if Poppa was pleased. I don’t remember what my sisters said. I only remember that I had a chance to get my nickel and I didn’t take it.
The days passed. I didn’t see Meyer Levin after school. I had stories ready for him. Good ones too. I never passed the Arcade. I walked two blocks out of my way to avoid it. The weekend came. Saturday Momma stayed home with all of us. On Sunday morning one of the older girls opened the pushcart for business.
Momma and Poppa dressed in their best.
“Benny come with us for a walk.”
I could never refuse Poppa: “Yes Poppa, I will get dressed fast.”
————————————————————————————————————–
Was this a holiday? I don’t remember that either. Poppa and Momma wanted me, their only son, to walk with them. So I did. We walked through the streets of Williamsburg and Momma and Poppa nodded to all their Brooklyn neighbors. Where were we going? I wanted to move on when they stopped in front of an empty store, not too far from the brownstone where we lived on South Eighth Street.
Poppa spoke. “Well Momma, no more pushcarts for you. I rented this store, now you can sit and rest when there are no customers.”
Momma stood still. “Poppa, you are teasing.”
“You begin on December First. No more standing in the snow. The rent includes heat and electric.”
“Where did you get the money? You stole it?”
“It is money I have saved for many years. I still have more for my funeral, and some left over for yours too.”
Momma reached for Poppa’s hand and held it without another word.
Poppa said, “Benny, here’s money for you.” And he gave me two nickels.
Monday and school the next day. I had a nickel for the Arcade. The other nickel I would save, like Poppa who saved and said, “Money grows when you save it.”
Now I was ready for Meyer Levin and the Arcade. I had the nickel to spend as I wanted. I held the nickel in my hand. I turned the nickel over and over, a new shiny 1914 nickel with an Indian head on one side, and a buffalo on the other side. I walked to school with a new step, quickly.
“Hey Meyer, let’s go to the Arcade after school.”
“Sure thing. Do you have a nickel?”
“Yes, I’ll show it to you later.”
We met, three boys and me and walked to the Arcade.
“Let’s see your nickel.” I slipped it out of my pocket when we reached the curb. It fell out of my hand and down the grating, down to the sewer.

—————————————————————————————————————

To order the work of Ruth Sidranksy, click on the titles below: REPARATIONS, a beautiful sweeping novel of post-war Europe and the two young American Jews that help the people of the sewers and forests return to the world after the Holocaust.

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A Woman's Primer Cover 2-4

Click on the title A WOMAN’S PRIMER, a charming throwback to the books for young ladies that now carries advice on money, freedom, courage, and passion from this amazing 86-year-old author.

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WHOA: amazon wants to be your editor too

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/Beth Wareham

We have a tech team – the Crazy 8s – who make this a publishing company. Without them in the 21st century, there is no us. However, I draw the line – as do they – at the human/machine border when it comes to writing. We see the mind of autocorrect. We know how companies cower behind templates, never bothering to come on for the “live chat” or answer the damn question in an email. We sit on hold for hours, waiting for a clerk to send an email to a department that won’t talk to clients. Now a simple problem of their making requires us to plop down 29.99 to fix it. Every year.

We have seen the vulgar, cheesy way that the world abuses words and cry BULLSHIT. But our cries go unheard.

Amazon is now offering the unsuspecting writer an “editorial” package. In their words, they will work with you on:

Structure
Plot flow
Characterization
Tone
The editor will also review for consistency in:
Grammar
Spelling
Punctuation

for $210 per each 10,000 words. You can do the math with your manuscript now. And even though they will review your consistency, the ESSENTIAL line edit will cost $160 per 10,000 words and, in amazon’s words, you will receive this:

The editor will review your manuscript using the Microsoft Word Track Changes feature and provide a line edit that corrects typos and ensures consistency in:
Grammar
Punctuation
Spelling
In addition, an editor will also provide an Editorial Letter explaining the suggested changes made in the manuscript.

Good grief. So that another $160 per 10,000 words on top of your $210 per 10,000 words and by the way, do you know how to load the thing and make changes?

And my biggest question is, if amazon is the editor, will they charge the $79 change fee for anything missed in their editing? They didn’t have a guarantee of services, just prices. And prices.

So let’s look at what amazon is going to do to YOUR novel. It’s 60,000 words so that means you’ll pay your amazon editor $1,260. Your line edit of 60,000 words at $160 will come in at $960.00.

You are now in for over $2000.00 and my only question is why would you pay machine-based editors relying on templates from the minds of engineers that kind of money when a talented editorial mind will work with you, your individuality and your art and give it the damn respect it deserves?

Whoa. I don’t want amazon to edit me. I want a grumpy person with a red pencil behind their ear, giving me hell and making me a better writer. I want a human brain to read a book for humans.

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DON’T GO IT ALONE: AMAZON IS LIKE GETTING BITTEN TO DEATH BY DUCKS

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/Beth Wareham

Of course I’m prejudiced: I have a digital publishing/tech company with a very old-fashioned business model: For one agreed-upon fee, a client receives every service he or she needs to make an ebook and paperback. We build the electronic presence around the book it needs to succeed. We are also responsible for every word in the books. In perpetuity. We’ve done the editing and proofing and have the tech experts to go in and make every change. In perpetuity.

Now, let’s paddle on over to amazon and see how they are handling the explosion in independent publishing. Looks kind of like ducks nibbling for bugs in the grass. For $199, you can pick from one of any ten interior designs for your book. You plunk your beloved manuscript in the template you choose and BAM!, any change you make will cost $79 per change.

If you want something a big jazzier, there is a template level of ten designs for $349 with 10 interior images. More photos – up to 30 on this template – will cost $25.00 per photo for each addition picture. The math on that one is easy.

There are charges for formatting author-supplied indexes, an adjustment to a template, conversion from Createspace to Kindle, a cover design package with one choice and and one change, and a higher package that supplies the writer with two concepts and two changes for not cost. Any more changes to the cover revert the the $79.00 a change charge, I assume.

My goodness. Was the internet merely a way to hasten the death I always felt awaited me when I worked in corporations – that of being bitten to death by ducks? This time, the nibbles are small costs that end up in one big pile of duck poo on your dock and a book that looks like hundreds of thousands of others.

The most shocking part of all this is that I’ve worked in publishing for 25 years and HAVE NEVER seen a manuscript completely error-free, no matter how many eyes ogled it. (Even The Great Gatsby suffered a typo in that first printing: Find one and you win the lotto.)

So I wonder, if I have 18 changes in a book I’ve worked on for years, in amazon’s world, I have to pay over $1,400 to have my book corrected?

More duck poo. I say that you can’t parse this kind of an artistic endeavor down in that fashion, and, as much as I love amazon, these “change fees” might have writers choosing between putting dinner on the table and making their work finer.

That is one crappy choice. Do yourself a favor: find a team to help you publish and you stay on your keyboard, making more art. It’s cheaper in the long run and you won’t have that icky “bitten to death by ducks” feeling.

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Wife. CEO. Cat Lover. Boxer. Hendrix Freak. NOVELIST.

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/Beth Wareham

I am a writer by night (yes, like a vampire) and a vampire by day (yes, I’m a publisher) and I try to keep the two separate. I cannot publish myself – it’s too much like public diddling – nor can I let my authors see me pulled off working their books to work mine. Tacky.

What to do. What to do. At the moment I’ll do nothing but let a few friends read it and see if they liked the sex. I’ll excerpt the blow job scene and email it to my 86 year old friend Ruth. I’ll sit around thinking “dear lord above I finished a novel” and reach for candy, which I surely deserve.

I’ve written oodles of books, most without my name. All non-fiction. I’m not a pornographer. I am a ghost. (You go think about that for awhile.) This is the first time I have thrown my sizable being into fiction and come out the other side. If I end up putting it in a box under the bed, I’ve still accomplished more than I ever imagined.

‘cuz listen everybody. This fiction-writing is hard stuff.

The mighty, the Few, the Novelists.

Off for some more champagne.

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A Writer’s Path: Ruth Sidransky Remembers First Meeting the Pen, 80 Years Ago

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By Ruth Sidransky

Life is tumultuous, sometimes sumptuous. Life has intervened, interfered with my writing throughout the years. I have written in snatches, on backs of envelopes, on notepads I generally carry with me, and in full concentration in the journals I have kept and continue to keep.

When I was 12 years old my friend Julia and I bought diaries with locks. Mine had a green leather cover with faux gold lettering. Amusing, now. One of the first entries I made was of a kiss. It was my first kiss under the stairwell in the boy’s apartment building on Grant Avenue in the Bronx. He had flaming orange hair and his name was Jack. And that’s what I remember. Was it wet, was it delicate, was it embarrassing? I don’t know. It’s not important. The importance lies in the memory. Perhaps we are made of more than our DNA, perhaps it is the memory of time past and the promise of time tomorrow, and the promise of life at the moment that gives our lives substance, a legacy to be passed on to the next generation and the next, and the next.

And so into my ninth decade of life, I stop, I pause and begin reading my old journals to ask why I wanted to write, to record, to remember. As I read I discover not only my comments on writing, but the life I lived as I wrote. It is as though writing was sandwiched in with the events of my life: graduations, marriages, births, successes, illnesses, divorce, death and all the ephemera that built my life in time gone by. A lesson in me. Startling, revelatory, sad, funny, amusing, spiritual, brave, prayerful, fearful, angry, pages filled with pleasure and contentment…and if I can think of anymore human attributes and failings I shall find them in the thousands of hand written pages, and perhaps include them. If I remember. The writing, however, was me and all me. It was the time I reserved to myself, to think, to tell a story. How my deaf father loved stories. He’d wait until I lifted my hands in sign/speech.

I would create stories for him, and he would ask, with a grin on his mustached face, his hands rising into the air, “Are you telling me the truth?

In mock seriousness I would both sign the word “Yes.” And nod my head.

In return, he signed, “You lie to me. Tell me another story.”

It was a time of deep pleasure, my father and I cavorting with language and the telling of the tales I spun with my hands.

I begin to search out reasons for the gift of storytelling, the gift of witnessing an event, the gift of watching yellow tulips fold for the night and open for the day. There is gift after gift. The primary gift is the gift of language. The gift of pen to paper, the gift of hands to the keyboard and I have been so gifted. The process is mysterious. I do not have the words to describe the muse that enters my soul and the need, the absolute need to write it down, write it out. Whatever that ‘it’ is at the moment.

And so I now make an attempt at writing yet another book on writing. It may be moot, yet, like all writers, composers, painters and artists of every stripe; the process is the same, the process is different. An oxymoron, not so. It is so. I speak to my young grandson, and ask, “How do you compose?” He says, “It just comes through my fingers.” He composes at the piano, as I write, through my fingers, either on a computer keyboard or in longhand.

I prefer writing with pen and ink on a blank white page. The computer offers legibility, speed, and immediate editing, either by deletion or a rewrite, sometimes, a word, here or there. On occasion, I have regretted deleting a paragraph or a sentence; sometimes it might have served a better purpose, if I had saved all the cross-outs. The deletions may have contained a thought-germ, or a phrase I might have used.

There are no deletions of the mind. Every thought is packed somewhere in our brain cells, even those struck out. The mind is the fount of work. Some call work creativity. I shy away from that word. We are all workers who create: music, books, plays, poems, songs, homes, cars, trains, buildings, an apple pie and the list is forever. Working is the touching of another, most of the time. The farmer tills his soil and creates nourishment for our bodies. The mother creates food for her infant. The father (usually) creates income for his family. Doctors create health. Artists create entertainment, sometimes instruction for all of us.

Entertainment for the mind, for the soul, is essential, to understanding who we are, where we come from. And storytelling is my path, my journey, my musings, and this is an invitation to my writing process, to my story as a writer.

Come; join me.

To read more of this extraordinary writer, try Reparations: A Tale of War and Rebirth (click on the title to order) or the charming Woman’s Primer, a perfect gift for the graduating young woman. (Again, just click on title to buy ebook or paperback.)

A Woman's Primer Cover 2-4

Reparations3

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10 Suggestions for the Care and Feeding of Editors

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www.shadowteams.com

/Beth Wareham

Editors like to find errors and inconsistencies. They like to be right; all incredibly annoying traits in human beings.

I should know, I am one. I’m also a writer and a publisher. When I am writing or publishing, I take on the annoying traits of those functions as well.

But odds are, you are a writer. And, if you are a beginning writer, you will have your first interaction with an editor. If you play your cards right, this editor will make your work at least 10% better AND prepare the manuscript for both publication and PROMOTION.

That’s right: Your editor should understand promotion and press breaks and help build them into your book along with good grammar, proper word choice and a narrative velocity that keeps your reader on the page, then the next page, then the page after that.

That’s a great deal for one human to hold in their head over 300 or more pages, so respect the editor. Good ones are as rare as honest politicians.

Enter into the editorial relationship with an open heart and really open eyes. It’s still your book and the ultimate choices are yours, but the right editor can really make a work sing.

Here are some thoughts on the care and feeding of editors:

1. If you say “I don’t need an editor,” you are going against the smart thinking of everyone from Tolstoy to Hemmingway to Stephen King. EVERYONE needs an editor. If you don’t think you do, I hear egotism and not a love of writing.

2. Get clarity. Remember, editors are just as rushed as everyone else and some talk in a kind of short hand. If any editorial comment does not make sense, press your editor so you can get it right.

3. Don’t get defensive. Never forget, this person’s job is to make you better. That means they must point out where your work is weaker. You need this. It makes your book a stronger read.

4. Get other reads. Ask anyone you respect to read your manuscript. Discuss their comments with the editor to see if they brought up valid points. It takes a village.

5. Do not fear cutting. Some editors do not cut, just suggest it. I take a red pencil and make long horizontal lines. Books are ALWAYS made better by cutting and tightening. Or almost always.

6. Give your editor time with your manuscript. Many authors want instant feedback. The only instant feedback you should get is that your editor has received your manuscript. Let them read it through and think about ways to make it better.

7. Don’t bug your editor: They are not here to manage your anxiety. If you are a big enough person to write a book, you are a big enough person to give your editor space to do his or her work. Discuss your fears with your shrink. Work with your editor.

8. Insist on communication. Talking to your editor daily is not something you should expect to do. But you should expect your calls returned – WITHIN REASON – and your queries – yes, you’ll query your editor’s queries sometimes – are explained.

9. Talk to your editor about how to build press breaks in the book. If it’s non-fiction, finding stories to pitch is easier. Exploit what you have that the press, reviewers or bloggers may be able to really hang on to and write a story.

10. Send short emails and expect short answers. Again, reading manuscripts and editing is akin to needle work; quiet and time consuming. Don’t burn any time with issues that don’t matter.

Okay, that’s my editorial advice for the day. I have to get back to writing. It’s more fun anyway.

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10 SIMPLE WRITING TIPS YOU CAN’T HEAR ENOUGH

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www.shadowteams.www

/Beth Wareham

I’ve have been editing a lot lately (like non-stop) and I’ve been reminded of a few easy moves that make every writer better. Simple hints that even the best forget or rely on a person like me to prune from prose for them.

Why not do it yourself. It’s simple. It makes you a much more effective communicator in all writing and speaking, doesn’t make you fat, and reinforces good basic discipline in a world run amok.

Tip #1 “And” No
Don’t start a sentence with the word “and.” It’s done but it’s a bit, well, lazy.

Tip #2 Verb Consistency
Write in the simple past tense. It’s easiest.

Tip #3 A Helper
Chronology is your friend. Only the most advanced should time travel in writing.

Tip #4 Band Camp
Don’t start every sentence of describing action with “and then”….”and then…”

Tip #5 Variety is the spice of writing.
Start a paragraph with a short sentence then the next sentience, go long. Short sentences speed the read and longer sentences slow the reading down to a more contemplative state. Think about speed.

Tip #6 No telling
Only showing, describing. Few enjoy their fiction to be a screed though certain writers do kiss the soapbox a bit more than is pleasure to me. Just tell me what happens. I’ll get it.

Tip #7 Short is always better.
Do not overwrite. Understand your subject and stay on it. Use discipline as you would in any other endeavor from the gym to painting the house.

Tip #8 Write for Yourself.
As soon as you assume a personality that is not yours – say a writer who dislikes children but wants to cash in on the YA phenomena – well, people pick up on it. Be true to who you are.

Tip #9 No One is Watching You
Get it out of our head that someone is watching what you write. My friend, this is a moment between you and your creator and if you don’t understand that, well, you’ve missed a lot of the joy. Write like you stole something. Write crazy daring words. Write dirty, write fast. Go back and change it later.

Tip #10 Choose the Right Word
Don’t reuse the same word over and over. Select the right word with the right meaning. A “fight” is different from a “brawl is different from a “riot,” etc.

There, I blurted out 10 quickies and must now go back to work. if you need me, you’ll find me here
on twitter @shadowteams or @skinnysmoothies