J is for “Janine Learns”

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JI thought we were finished with the anthology when the first deadline passed last July and we had 15 solid essays. But the book was way too short. And since many of the essays dealt with heavy subjects such as breast cancer, death, infant hospital stays, disabilities, our slim volume was also pretty dark. We needed more essays—lighter ones. Part of me thought, “It’s our first book. It’s ok if it isn’t perfect.” But I also felt like that since we knew what we needed to fix, we had a responsibility to fix it. As much as I wanted to be done, I kept working. We reached out to members of the group who hadn’t contributed yet and asked them for the sort of essays that would round out our anthology. Three of us (Joanne Hartman, Mary Hill and myself) volunteered to read the manuscript and work with the authors on another round of revisions.

In December we had our final 29 essays and a foreword (thanks to author and writing teacher Kate Hopper). Again, I hoped that we were done and ready to go to print.

The book was more balanced now, but it still felt like something was missing, as if we only had the first two acts of a three-act play. I wanted to pretend that it was ok as-is, but I knew we had to fill in the missing act. Since the broad topic of our anthology addressed how writing affects our parenting and vice versa, the editorial team wrote an addendum with writing advice from our moms. I sent questionnaires out to our members asking, “How do you make time for writing?” and “What holds you back?”

Even though I was loath to make more work for myself, it was so gratifying to address the problems as we found them. In late January we sent our book to a copy editor (Cary Tennis). Then we began the task of drafting a press release, contacting media outlets (thank goodness WoM member Teri Stevens is a marketing director!), scheduling dates in our book tour, filing for copyright, promoting the anthology on Facebook.

I think this book will mean something different to each contributor. For me it’s what happens when you keep working and don’t stop until you’ve done your best.

We’re just days away from having our book on Amazon but if you can’t wait, you can buy it here off of Create Space:

https://www.createspace.com/4651885

D is for Don’t Do It Yourself

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DIt takes about 36 seconds’ worth of research to realize that self-publishing is not DIY publishing. It can be, just like you could calk your own bathroom or bake your own wedding cake. But if quality matters, you might want some professional help.

We outsourced a lot of the work on Mamas Write, starting with the editing.

Originally we tried peer editing our own essays. We’re smart cookies, right? We broke into four groups of five writers and each group was in charge of editing its participants’ essays. It didn’t work out so well.

For starters, not everyone has the time to read and respond to four essays while revising her own. And not everyone is comfortable in the editor’s chair. And we didn’t yet have a theme. Well, we thought we did—why we write—but that’s such a broad question and we (read: me) was just discovering that broad answers are hard to write and they aren’t so interesting to read. Oh, wait. Should that be “(read: I)?” See what I mean about editing? It’s hard!

So we got ourselves a professional developmental editor. I know I talk so much about Kate Hopper it looks as if I get special brownie points for doing so. (I don’t —not yet, anyway.)

I’m not sure what it was like for other people to send their work off to a person they’d never met and then receive feedback on how to make their pieces stronger (although many of us had met Kate before). I won’t presume to speak about anyone else’s process, but I can talk about the results—tighter, brighter prose from what was already pretty good. Like wiping the fingerprints off a mirror. You can still see your reflection in a smudgy mirror, but cleaner is better.

Kate was just the first pro we hired. We also outsourced copyediting (who among us has the time to read The Chicago Manual of Style?), graphic design (although WoM and professional photographer Allison Tierney took our cover photo), layout and probably something else that I’ve forgotten because it’s not my job to remember.

Was it worth it? We think so, but don’t you want to judge for yourself by purchasing your own copy? (See, if I had a professional PR person, she could tell me if those last two lines will be effective or not).