This is a wonderful opportunity to help trauma survivors get their stories and work out to a wider audience.
For those who don’t know, Katie Koestner was on the cover of TIME Magazine at the age of 18 as the first person to speak out nationally and publicly as the victim of “date” rape. She is now the Producer and Host of the Dear Katie: Survivor Stories podcast.
My function is two fold. One, to find any creatives (not just authors) whose work deals with trauma and healing, and engage them in podcast conversations regarding their work and their lives post trauma. Two, to help find trauma survivors who’ll share their stories for the main Dear Katie podcast, review episodes before they go to air, edit, and make suggestions as necessary.
Please leave a comment if you or someone you know has written a fiction or non-fiction book, article, or story about surviving trauma. Include the title of the published work, the publisher, a synopsis of the story, and a link to where I can find it online.
Thanks. – Joseph Carrabis
My own work in this area can be seen in the material listed below. Your work doesn’t need to mirror or echo my subject matter to be considered; it only needs to be well-written and deal with survivor issues.
Published novel: The Augmented Man (graphic violence; sexual trauma; child abuse; PTSD; emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological abuse)
Published short story: “The Boy in the Giant” elsewhere in this blog and in Harvey Duckman Volume 6 (myth/folktale about overcoming childhood abuse)
Post Title – Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club; Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories I joined the Katie Koestner organization as Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club, and Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories.
Readers have long escaped into fictional worlds to avoid thinking about events in their real world. Writers do the same. The difference is that as writers, escapism is our vocation. Instead of dealing with the here and now, we regularly choose to immerse ourselves in alternate worlds, fictional events and imaginary conflicts. – Rachel O’Regan
But that’s OK. It’s more than OK: it’s necessary. I mean… have you been following the news lately? We need books that ground us in the unvarnished reality of our present, and books that explore the more horrific moments of our past. We need dystopias to warn us and poetry to challenge us. And we need escapist fiction to give us a freaking break. – Charlotte Ahlin
And writing is a therapeutic form of escape. According to Gustave Flaubert: “It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself, to move in an entire universe of your own creating”. – Zoë Miller
Personally, I acknowledge elements of escapism in my writing. No world of mine comes to mind where a character traps young children in a school room and shoots them with an assault rifle. In my world, police would immediately risk their own lives and save the children. That’s escapism.
Of the Co-op’s stated goals when it was established six years ago, Curtis Bausse says, “Well, I think we’ve done pretty well on the whole. Still struggling with the marketing side, but who isn’t? And as Carl says, there’s more to come, so maybe one day we’ll crack it. One can always dream….”
Why do writers find marketing so difficult? Is it, really? Or are we just that bad at it? I suspect both. Asking me to market my book is like asking me to the moon for lunch.
Traditional publishers that pay royalties and advances have a system. They list your book in their “release ad” in Publishers Weekly and other magazines and provide tip sheets and advance selling materials to their sales forces, who go out into the field and talk to booksellers and librarians; send catalogs to libraries, bookstores, specialty outlets & schools; put your book on the web; send out review copies to review sources and advance reader copies to booksellers; and show your book at conventions for librarians, booksellers, and teachers. They provide metadata about your book to Amazon and other online bookstores, as well as getting it into the pipelines of wholesalers. Most promote new books on social media. They may even take out ads, create giveaways, help organize online or physical tours, write and send press releases.
This is the point to ask oneself, can we do all that? No. Some of it? Yes. Should we try? Probably not. Traditional publishers have honed their marketing. Doing “all that” must be required or they would not have spent all that money doing all of it.
So how do we crack book marketing? Sometimes, problem solving begins with listing what we do know, or can find out, then coming up with some/any idea to try, to see what we can learn from the effort.
I know that books are not a commodity, in the sense of candy bars or beer, because, like houses, nobody buys a six-pack. Books are sold one at a time like cars and if the buyer likes it, they may come back in the future for a new one from the same dealer. Unfortunately, one book makes too little profit for an author to open a dealership unless that author has a ton of books out there. Steven King or Clive Cussler have their own book dealerships. Amazon does.
Not to compete with Amazon, but to copy what they do well as well as we can, I wonder if authors shouldn’t form independent book clubs where, together, we sell our books. A club’s webpage could be here on the Writers Co-op website. Members could link to the club’s page from their own website and social media. The club could include independent publishers and would offer a wider selection of books for readers to browse. Our advantage over Amazon is that, being small, our books wouldn’t be lost in a digital storm. And members would keep control over their books and keep all profits. What do you think?
While working with editors to screen stories submitted for publications, I find many are rejected because the submission is not a story. It is a scene, a statement, a monologue, maybe a rant. Sometimes, the rejected submission is beautifully worded sentences that literally have no point beyond themselves.
It is not true that any account of a series of related events or experiences constitutes a story. I know that is the definition of a narrative. But for our purposes, it is no more a story than is the space in a building between two adjacent floors. We need stories with conflict, or tension, or surprise, or extraordinary characters or character behavior, or controversy, or mystery, or suspense, or -you get the point. Something that interests a reader and draws them in. And, will give readers reason to buy the next issue of the magazine or anthology.
Google “what makes a story good” and you’ll get thousands of returns. Many writers and teachers of writing offer useful advice for crafting a story. But that advice is useless to the writer who has no story of interest to tell. Editors reject stories with form letters that say nothing. But among themselves, they share reasons such as, “The writing is good, but the story is uninteresting.” “A boring telling – no effort is made to pull the reader into the story.” “I’m sure this entertained the writer more than me.” “Uninteresting with a predictable ending.” “No. Not a story.”
Obviously, we all know a good story when we see one. Maybe I’m attempting to categorize an observable element although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters. But if someone could succently state what a good story is, they would be helping all of us to get more work published.
Writers Co-op is about helping writers. We’re here to offer advice, resources, and experience about marketing, publishing, and the writing process itself. I’m sure there are other ways you can think of in which Writers Co-op can support its community, but I’m here to offer the one every writer needs even if they think they don’t: thoughtful, constructive, kind critiques.
How many of us are fortunate enough to have a dedicated set of beta readers who eagerly await each installment of our latest Work In Progress? Who among us has even one friend to call on who will read the 400 page draft of our brilliant literary fiction with an editor’s eye, sharing their thoughts in enough detail to help us polish our work to a professional gleam? How often have you wished a real writer would take a look at what you’ve written and offer a little free feedback?
Of course, it’s possible you are absolutely certain what you have spent months writing in the solitary mental confinement of your favorite room or coffee house or poolside bar is absolutely perfect just as you’ve written it. *snort* Guess again. Don’t get me wrong, there are probably many positive things to say about your manuscript, but there are probably at least a few things that need clarification or further description or a little rewriting to maintain continuity and interior logic. Sure, it’s all clear to you — you wrote it. But if you’re looking for a critique, you’re hoping for an audience. If a member of the audience says it’s not clear or it’s confusing, you’d do well to pay attention.
So here’s the deal:
If you have a piece of writing you would like a member of Writers Co-op to critique, whether it’s a short story, essay, poem, novella, novel, or a portion or chapter of a longer work, attach it as a .docx or .pdf to an email and send it to me at email@example.com. Please put “Critique Exchange” in the Subject line. (Just to be clear, by submitting your work for critique, you are agreeing to critique the work of the person who critiques your work.) I will match you with a critique partner who groks your genre and is able to take on a critique at that time, and they will send you their work to critique while they critique yours. The writer who needs the most time to complete their critique will set the deadline for both of you. Writers Co-op expects you both to honor that deadline or Writers Co-op will have the option of disallowing further participation of the author who fails to meet the deadline.
Now, a few words about writing and receiving critiques. Write the sort of critique you would find most helpful. Like I said earlier, thoughtful, constructive, and kind work for me. Snark and sarcasm might be fun, but they aren’t actually helpful or kind, so please restrain those urges. As for receiving a critique, first coat your skin with Armor All, then consider Neil Gaiman’s sage advice:
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ~~~ Neil Gaiman
We’re excited to invite you to take advantage of this service. You might even know other writers who are searching for this opportunity and would be grateful if you shared this post with them.
I don’t write quickly. Well, except for those weekly 500-word book reports for Honors English in twelfth grade. I churned out each of those A-graded babies in 30 minutes or less before class — In ink. On college ruled notebook paper — while hiding in the cafeteria where my friends never thought to look for me. But since then? I’ve written slowly, deliberately, editing as I go, and editing again before I start writing anew when I return to any WIP. And then I continue to edit.
Now I’m heading up the Show Case Writing Prompt Challenge here, for the Writers Co-op. One prompt every two weeks, and I’ve committed to responding to every single one of them. Or maybe I should just be committed. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Writing for these prompts is a huge challenge for me because, contrary to what Carl Reed thinks, I’m not prolific, and I don’t have the luxury of time to write any of them.
I still have a labor-intensive livelihood to attend to. (I’m plenty old enough to retire. I’m just not anywhere near plenty rich enough.)
I spent many, many hours over a six month period last year re-writing the first part of a YA Sci-fi trilogy as a standalone with series potential so I could enter it in ScreenCraft’s Cinematic Book Competition last November. Obviously, this hasn’t impacted the time I’ve spent writing for Show Case this year, but it does demonstrate my inherent slowness as a writer. AND, it sets up a bit of a boast: Last week, ENHANCED made the cut to the quarterfinals. (Shout out to Victor Acquista, whose sci-fi novel SENTIENT also advanced to the quarterfinals!)
I’m currently writing a full synopsis — ugh — in order to enter ENHANCED in another competition in March.
I’m also working on a different novel I am completely in love with that I am determined to enter in this year’s ScreenCraft competition in the fall. It’s based on a short story I wrote three years ago, and I’m only on Chapter 4. Long way to go. Limited amount of time to get there.
There’s a household to take care of. You know the drill: shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, et cetera.)
And a dog.
There are front and back yards screaming for attention. Get a yard guy, you suggest? See number 1 above.
And there’s reading to be done. Lots of reading, and I don’t read for speed.
In other words, I’m a lot like you.
Here’s my pitch. We all have lives outside of Writers Co-op, and even outside of writing. But we also have a talented, thoughtful, caring community here that urges its members to push beyond whatever point they are at in their writing journey. We lift each other up with each interaction.
That’s been particularly clear around Show Case. The feedback is not only appreciative, but in many cases, critically helpful, prodding good writers to show flashes of brilliance. And maybe brilliant writers to show flashes of genius. Do you want a piece of that?
You can learn the prompt two weeks in advance, so you have some time to mull it over while you’re driving, shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry or yard work, walking the dog or taking a shower. And by sharing these posts on other sites, I know for a fact that we have attracted some new readers, even though they haven’t submitted any of their own writing — yet. (I’m looking at you, Tre!)
Most of all, writing to these prompts is fun. It’s a chance to flesh out projects you’ve been working on for a while or take short, creative detours in directions you didn’t anticipate going. I never imagined that everyone would respond to every prompt, but I suspect each of you who has contributed to Show Case so far would agree that the exercise was stimulating and satisfying.
So shake off any hesitation you have and add your creative energy to Show Case. Start small or go big. You might unleash a new voice hiding in your brain. You might discover each piece you write feeds your growth as a writer. You might decide to compile all your contributions in a published anthology that brings you wealth and fame. But no matter what comes of your efforts, you won’t be sorry.
Specific comments about another author’s work can be truthful, helpful and painful. Sacrificing truth to prevent pain is not helpful. None of us want that. We work hard to improve and we have all winced at positive but useless comments.
Criticism, as the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary work, has a wide history. There’s Formalist criticism, Gender criticism, Marxist criticism, Psychoanalytic criticism, Russian formalism, Reader Response criticism, even Critical criticism. And we don’t have time for all that.
I suspect that trusting the author who asks for criticism and truthfully giving what help we can competently offer, will work most of the time. Sue Ranscht’s Writers Co-op Show Case allows just that. Check it out if you’re looking for criticism &/or are willing to criticize another author’s writing.
Of course, the real fun in criticism is when you don’t like an author and can say things like, “If you think he’s good now, you should read his writing from two or three years ago.”
While screening stories submitted to Sci-Fi Lampoon magazine, it occurred to me that editing means the opportunity to find new stories to share with others. What does that mean? It can’t mean only stories that the editor personally likes. Good stories appeal to a wider variety of readers than any one person can imagine.
So what makes a story appeal to a wide variety of readers? Common themes help, of course, because more readers will identify with the story. But I suspect the real key is participation. Think of it this way: Would you rather sit in an audience and listen to a comedian or a lecturer? The lecturer may tell you interesting things but the comedian will draw you in and make you participate. Would you rather laugh or be lectured?
Yup. I’m talking “Show don’t tell,” my favorite explanation of which remains the quote by Russian novelist Anton Chekhov.
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” “Show don’t tell” entices the imagination. That lets the reader participate in the story.
Writers have used many creative ways to draw readers into their stories and the ‘Net is full of examples. Chekhov’s is an immersive description. Some are half-thoughts that invite the reader to complete the image.
“She said only, ‘He spent the night rocking my world.'”
Or juxtaposed images that show something of the character’s character.
“I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.” -Steven Wright.
What is your favorite way to show the reader your characters, to draw then into your world?
Me, I favor dialogue. It can allow the reader to imagine the details.
“You had a vibrator?” She nodded. “I pulled a lot of guard duty. You know how boring that is?”
It’s not enough to tell a reader anything. You have to show them something.
Recently, several of us explored ways to expand our little co-op. Having failed to heed the Universal Caution against volunteering, I volunteered to organize two ongoing projects — Writing Prompts and Critique Groups — that might induce authors to participate. Most of those who commented on my ideas supported them. (I suspect they were just happy somebody offered to do something, but I am grateful nonetheless.)
Let’s begin with a Writing Prompt. This isn’t a competition, but all submissions will be shown off in a Show Case posted here on Writers Co-op. Here are some guidelines: Pick a genre, any genre. Use approximately 6 to 1,000 words. The goal is to stretch our author muscles and produce a piece worth sharing with our friends.
The first prompt is:Atrophied.
Submission Instructions: By Monday, October 4, attach your work (as a .docx or .pdf) to an email addressed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll put them together in a Show Case post here on Writers Co-op for Friday, October 8. (I’m thinking this could be a bi-weekly challenge. What do you think?)
And if we all share these projects through our own personal blogs, Facebook pages, and soapboxes, authors who have never heard of Writers Co-op might take part, too.
Novelist, screenwriter and film director Alex Garland is a big fan of BioShock, loosely based on Ayn Rand’ self-interest-championing philosophy of objectivism as outlined in her novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
Harlan Ellison collaborated with Cyberdreams and game writer David Sears to create “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, “a PC horror game based on his short story of the same name.
Tom Clancy is well-known in the gaming industry, especially for his Rainbow Six military and espionage games.
Authors play video games for the same fun & relaxation reasons others do and they sometimes pick up tips on world building, scene progression, and character differentation.
I play video games to push thoughts of what I’m writing aside, to someplace in my mind where they’re free to evolve without me consciously picking at them. For me, much of life is like swinging through trees. You have to regularly let go to make any progress.
Do you play video games? Which ones do you prefer? And, do they in any way contribute to your writing?