It has been a long time I have not been here, but I have been busy writing and learning.
It is time to wrap up 2017 and start 2018.
2017 brought me so many opportunities to learn more and write better. From joining great writing clubs in the Washington D.C area, going to writing retreats and expanding my network, to reading a variety of books and learning how to analyze a story with literary tools, this past year has paved me a wonderful path and let me expand my writing skills.
Learning more about writing a story was not the only outcome of my efforts. I also arrived at a deeper realization of how satisfying writing is to me, how it gives me the ability to focus and experience living in the flow (when during an activity, one doesn’t feel the passage of time and gain a sense of meaningfulness) and intellectual and spiritual fulfillment.
In 2017, starting my year with joining a couple of writing clubs and attending their monthly meetings was a gateway to a new world. I got to know other enthusiastic writers writing about fascinating non-fiction stories. They welcomed me in their group, and that became my support group. I looked forward to every month’s meeting to read others’ submissions or to submit my piece and get constructive feedback from them.
Then it was the writing retreat experience. A few of us in the writing club decided to do a writing retreat. “The Porches” close to Jamestown, Virginia has been our retreat place. Sitting in a quiet place in the middle of nature far from the crowded city with a limited cellphone signal was so helpful for better concentration and a clearer mind. Not only that, I also got to hang out with other writers who helped me along the way to improve. We wrote during the day, cooked dinner together, and had a workshop on what we wrote after dinner every night. It was a great experience.
I got support and encouraging feedback from this group. One day, during the day, I was trying to see how I could remove parts of the writing without breaking the flow of the story. I was trying to cut my manuscript in half, and was not able to do it. At night sitting in the living room after dinner, drinking wine, and discussing our writings, I expressed my concern about the excessive amount of words I had written in my book and how I was not able to remove sections since the details seemed necessary. When the team came up with the idea of dividing my manuscript to two books, I was relieved. We discussed the pros and cons of it and I started thinking about the possibility. It was doable. Book one includes the story of my life in Iran covering 1978 to 2004 and book two covers my life in the U.S after my immigration in 2004 until 2015 when I started writing the book. In 2015, I ended an era of personal dissatisfaction by starting to write my memoir.
What I learned about writing had a magical impact. It changed my approach to reading. I began analyzing the story through reading. I started developing critiquing skills, something I had never learned before. Websites like Sparknotes, Shmoop, and Cliffsnotes became my favorite place for hanging out online for a while. Then on Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me two books, “The Great Gatsby” and “Sparknotes – The Great Gatsby” She explained to me how they learned to do literary critiquing in high school with those books. I was thrilled. Her support was so encouraging. Reading became a more intellectual activity too.
To practice more writing and evaluate my writing skills, I have started writing personal essays. I have submitted one for an anthology and am waiting to hear whether my piece will be accepted in early spring of 2018. I have one that will be reviewed by my writing club in January of 2018. I am planning to submit that piece to the Modern Love column in NY Times. And I have a couple more under development. My personal essays are focused on my experience in relationships with people around me, and its undercurrent is analyzing human behavior through the universal desire of feeling connected to others and sense of fulfillment.
Reading with an analytical approach helped me to realize I was at the point that I needed professional editing on my manuscript. I received great critiques from the writing coach L. S. Lakin leading me to add 8 years to the beginning of the book. This gave a better background to the reader about how everything was built up in my youth.
As the editing of my first book is now in progress with the great help of the memoir instructor and professional editor Mathina Calliope, I am excited to start working on the publishing process.
I understand establishing a market for my book has a big role in the publishing process. Regardless of the type of publishing route – traditional or self-publishing – I choose, I need to build a platform and get my name out to readers who might be interested in my story.
I have started studying about book marketing specifically on possible markets for memoirs. One great book I am reading now is “You Should Really Write a Book”. I got to know this book through signing up for a webinar “Writing the Memoir that Can Sell: How to Attract Agents & Editors to Your Story” that will be presented by Literary Agent Regina Brooks.
I have also learned a lot about publishing and marketing through Jane Friedman’s blog and I am looking forward to the Webinar “How to Get Published: Land a Book Deal in 2018” she is offering on January 4th.
As part of getting to know other authors and publishers in the industry, I have planned a few trips to attend book festivals and conferences.
Here are a few I am planning to attend:
To a prosperous 2018 for all of us here and there!
P.S. Here are a few more links to other Literature and Book fairs in the world:
Editing Credit: Mike Curtis
Picture Credit: https://pixabay.com