Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Mom's New Book is Out!

My mom, Sue Parman, has a new poetry chapbook out: The Thin Monster House (Finishing Line Press).

Here are a few links, for those of you who are poetry fans:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Finishing Line Press

“Keenly observant, intelligent, and filled with moments of beauty, The Thin Monster House tastes of nature, life and loss.  I felt as if I was on a journey with a poet taking me to new, unexpected places. Sue Parman’s poetry is edgy, sharp and acute.”
—Sandra Giedeman, past president of the Orange County chapter of PEN, Pushcart Prize nominee, and winner of the Mudfish Poetry Prize

“From modern to ancient times, these poems call forth the cycles of the natural world and human life on planet Earth. With unexpected turns, Sue Parman applies the unimagined to the ordinary, taking the reader deep into primal elements and outward into the universe. A thoroughly luscious read!”
Marie Buckley, President Emeritus of the Oregon Poetry Association

The thin house on the hill is invisible
to adults but children know when it will appear,
although it can be seen only by its dark perimeter
for less than a minute.  Such a brief time, seconds fizz
through fingertips, not enough time for fears
to bubble and trouble small spirits, and yet
so much can happen inside of a single minute….
—excerpt from the poem, “The Thin Monster House”

Sue Parman is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and an award-winning poet, playwright, essayist, and fiction writer.  In academia she is the author of six books and numerous articles on topics as diverse as Scottish crofters, Japan, and the neurophysiology and cultural patterning of dreams, and has published in diverse literary genres, from memoirs, science fiction, and travel writing to sonnets and haiku.  For thirty years she studied a Gaelic-speaking community in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, and many of her academic writings and literary fiction deal with Scotland.  Since moving to Oregon in 2009, she has received over ten writing awards, including four first-place awards from the Oregon State Poetry Association and Oregon Writers Colony, two Kay Snow Awards from Willamette Writers, and Honorable Mentions from Best Travel Writing Annual Solas Awards and Oregon Humanities.  Her poetry has appeared in Cloudbank, Verseweavers, Slant, The Hiram Poetry Review, and The Elephant-Ear, as well as other venues, and her short stories, plays, and essays have appeared in Voice Catcher, Lumina, Journeys, The Elephant-Ear, Spectacle, The Los Angeles Times, Songs of Innocence, and BewilderingStories.com.  Produced plays include “Queen Victoria’s Secret” (which was performed in Portland’s Fertile Ground New Play Festival in 2011, published in Voice Catcher, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize).  

Information about upcoming readings and publications can be found at: http://www.sueparman.com/ and http://anthro.fullerton.edu/sparman/.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Haircut: Week 3 / Plus a Note About Comments

This week was a tipping point. My post-chemo hair growth became long enough that I can no longer spike it straight up. When I try to do so, it looks rather like a pathetic attempt at a mohawk. Not an awesome mohawk, mind you. Just a sad little silly one.

Instead, I'm going to see if taming my curls downward works. Here's my first shot. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes my curls to rebel.

I previously blogged about my inadvertent sociological experiment that took place during chemo, in which different wigs received vastly different responses from the people I interacted with. This continues to be the case with short hair! More than any other change of appearance I've ever had, hair changes the way strangers interact with me.

I'm not sure if it's these thrilling posts about my hair that are increasing the number of people reading the blog (kidding, I know it's the how-to posts), but I've started to receive SPAM comments that I've had to delete. Therefore I've changed the settings and comments will only appear once I've had a chance to approve them.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Haircut: Week 2

Last week I began a weekly ritual: taking a photo of my hair once a week as it grows out after chemotherapy. This way I'll be able to remember what it looks like at different lengths, so I can decide how long I'd like to keep it.

I'm much better at sticking to things if I declare publicly that I'm going to do them. Much like participating in NaNoWriMo pretty much ensures I'll complete a 50,000-word draft of a novel within a month, and starting Gargoyle Girl got me to sort through years of gargoyle and other mysterious photographs, promising to take a weekly photo of my post-cancer hair means I have to do it—even if I've got a bit of Alfalfa hair going on like I do right here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

5 Things You Really Need To Know Before Deciding Whether To Self-Publish: Workshops and a Cheat Sheet

Four months ago I wrote a blog post with 20 Steps in Self-Publishing, to share what I learned in the six months after a scary cancer diagnosis made me decide to throw myself into forming my own imprint to publish my mystery series myself.

Since that time, I've learned a lot more and have had many people ask me for details about the process. Most recently, two writers organizations asked me to speak about what I've learned over the course of this year. For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area or the Portland Oregon area who might be interested in attending, here are details about those two events. And for everyone, here's a preview with some key things that are part of what I'll be talking about in the workshops: 5 things you really need to know before deciding whether to self-publish.

Adventures in Self-Publishing
Saturday, August 4, 2012, noon2 p.m. 
Berkeley, CA
Details and directions on the SinC NorCal website. This is a free event.
Speaking to the Northern California Chapter of Sisters in Crime about the pros and cons of self-publishing and traditional publishing, and answering questions about the nuts and bolts of self-publishing.

Different Paths to Publishing: Which is Right For You, and How To Do It Right
Sunday, September 16, 2012, 1 – 5 p.m.
Lake Oswego Fairfield Inn and Suites, OR (near Portland)
Details on the OWC website. Registration is necessary. There is a fee, but scholarships are available.
I'm excited to be teaching this 4-hour workshop with my mom! Sue Parman is an anthropologist who's written numerous academic books in addition to fiction, plays, and poetry. We've each had experience with multiple types of publishing. The first half of our workshop will focus on what you need to know to make a personal decision about which type of publishing to pursue. The second half will delve into publicity and marketing.

5 Things You Really Need To Know Before Deciding Whether To Self-Publish

1. Self-Publishing is not necessarily a shortcut. It's a temptingly lovely path of roses you see off the main highway. When you pull off the interstate, you'll see the beautiful roses are covered in thorns. A few people will have the talent and luck to avoid most of the thorns, many others will be annoyed by the extent of their scratches but will ultimately be happy with the garden, and some people will become stuck in the brambles, never finding their way to a successful spot on the path that was once so tantalizing.

So far, I fall into the middle camp. It's a hell of a lot more work than I thought it was going to be to publish my first mystery myself, but it's also been rewarding in many ways.  It's important to note that even though technology has made it possible for publishing shortcuts to exist, there's not a shortcut to learning how to be a good writer. It's never a good idea to publish shoddy work. The general public is not your critique group. Make sure you've got a damn good book before sharing it with the world. Spend the time you need to write a book that's good enough to be traditionally published, and then decide what type of publishing is right for you.

2. Are you up for dealing with the nitty gritty details of publishing that don't involve writing? I went over many of the the steps involved here, including getting ISBN numbers, designing a book cover and other promotional materials, deciding on a printer and distribution, creating the layout for the printed book, formatting the book for different ebook formats, and creating accounts to sell the book. Whew! And that's not even everything. There are more forms such as copyright and PCIP data blocks, if you decide to get these things.

It's true that you'll keep a lot more of the profits from book sales if you publish your books yourself, but you'll also be doing all the hidden work yourself. Maybe you love having control of all of these things and have the time to do them, in which case self-publishing is probably a great path for you.

3. Do you want to focus on writing above all else? Unfortunately there's no way for a writer to focus exclusively on writing these days, whichever route to publishing you chose. But if you don't want to think of yourself as a business person as much as an author, you might want to stick with having someone else as your publisher.

Fortunately, there are lots of business people who love books, so I've been hearing about many wonderful new small presses popping up. With publishing in flux right now, these aren't the most stable of times—but they're also pretty exciting times with lots of options.

4. Have you thought about your goals? No, really. Will you be disappointed that the vast majority of bookstores won't stock your self-published book, regardless of how professional it looks? Or will you be thrilled to check out your eBook sales directly and see that people who don't know you are buying your book? Any goal is a valid one, as long as you're sure you're being honest with yourself. Otherwise you might end up disappointed later.

5. The books are still the most important thing. This point circles back to the first one. It's easy to get swept up in all of the back-end details of publishing a book and the front-end marketing, both of which could easily be a full-time job. It's all to easy to forget that what you really need to be doing is writing the next book. All of the successful self-published authors I've spoken with agree that having multiple books out is the best way to generate word-of-mouth.

I admit that for a couple of months I got side-tracked and spent too much time focusing on the publishing and marketing side of things. I even joined Facebook! (Gah! Yes, that should show you how crazy things had gotten.) But ultimately I realized I wasn't doing myself any favors. I know I can't do everything. As of two weeks ago, I'm back on track. I need to keep writing the next chapter in the series—and that's is exactly what I'm going to get back to doing after I publish this blog post.

I hope to see some of you at the workshops, and in the meantime feel free to leave a comment below with any questions. I've learned a lot from so many generous people that I'm more than happy to pass along what I've learned.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One Year Later: The Post-Cancer Recap

Last week was the one year anniversary of when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What a year! I never expected so many of the things that happened this year:
  • Getting cancer in my 30s.
  • Going through chemo, which sucked but also had the wonderful side effect of bringing out the best in my husband and friends.
  • Deciding to stop waiting for my agent to hear from publishers and instead form my own imprint and publish my first book myself.
  • The support of so many people regarding my controversial decision.
  • Feeling healthier than I ever have in my life. 
  • Eating a diet that's pretty close to vegan. This is after previously being someone who prided myself on my ability to try any food, anywhere. I never expected it, but food tastes more amazing than ever.
  • Finding myself completely comfortable with hospitals and needles. 
  • Having short hair—and thinking that it doesn't actually look so bad!
Regarding that last point, after the first inch grew back thin and straight, my hair is now growing back as fierce and curly as ever. In the picture above, you can see my short cut is starting to curl at the edges. That picture was taken a little over a week ago, and it's already visibly longer. I'm stealing an idea from a friend and am going to take a photo of myself each week as my hair grows out, so I can decide what length I like best. As long as I don't look too ridiculous—and those curls will start to look silly—I'll share the photos here. Okay, okay, I'll post photos here regardless. But I don't promise that I won't sometimes be wearing a cute hat.

And how did I fare with my New Year's Resolutions that I came up with right as I finished up chemo and began radiation? I stuck to the important ones (my first mystery novel is coming out at the end of August, I'm working on other fun writing projects, and I'm cooking delicious healthy food) but I failed in a few ways that surprised me:

It's true. Hell has frozen over. And look outside your window; you'll see some pigs flying. Yup, I'm now on Facebook. With my first book coming out in less than two months, I set up an author page (not a personal one). I haven't yet decided what I think of it, but I'm around, so you can find me there.

I wanted to practice my French, but I haven't spoken a word of French since 2012 began. Okay, maybe three words. Or thirty. But I didn't start a new French language course. It turns out it's so much work to be one's own publisher. (More on that next week.) Getting my book ready for publication didn't leave me with much free time. I also didn't keep a sketchbook, or keep up with this blog as much as I would have liked. I did keep a notebook of notes, and I see I've got lots to blog about, so that's one thing that'll be easy to do more of. But French? I apologize in advance to the French, whose language I will slaughter when I visit France this fall after my last cancer treatments are complete.

This year has taught me that it's true you can never know what will happen in your life—but you can be prepared. Having wonderful people in my life got me through this year, and I know now that I can get through anything.