Arlington, MA Book Festival, Saturday, November 1, 2104

arlington-book-fest_final_color_croppedmoreTomorrow, November 1, 2014, is the first ever Arlington, MA Book Festival at the beautiful Robbins Library. I’m honored to be on a panel called NEW PATHWAYS TO PUBLISHING at 11:00 am, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Check out the schedule below! I hope to see you there!

ARLINGTON BOOK FESTIVAL

LOCATION: Robbins Library, 700 Mass. Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

TIME: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

COST:  FREE!

Arlington Book Festival Schedule:

9:45 Welcome (Reading Room)

10:00 Authoring Children’s Books (Reading Room)
There’s magic and mystery in creating great books for kids. Panel moderator: Jef Czekaj, award-winning children’s author Panelists: Miriam Glassman, Sarah Lamstein, Adam J.B. Lane, Stephen Sanzo

10:00 Art of Writing Memoirs (Community Room)
Learn the honest truth about making up your story. Panel moderator: Lynette Benton, author and writing coach Panelists: William Buffett, Miriam Levine, Jane Davenport Platko, Oakes Plimpton

11:00 New Pathways to Publishing (Reading Room)
Set your creativity GPS. Panel moderator: Matt Clark, creative director of Provincetown Public Press Panelists: Sam Kafrissen, Marit Menzin, Mary Rowen, Miriam Stein

11:00 Writing on the Subject of Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Health (Community Room)
Authors who change lives through the written word. Panel moderator: Linda Varone, author and Feng Shui consultant Panelists: Pamela Donleavy, Emily Fox-Kales, Ph.D., Raman Prasad, Holly Lebowitz Rossi

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch break, book sales

1:00 Doing Research for Your Writing (Reading Room)
Google is for amateurs! Panel moderator: Michèle Meagher, Robbins Library PLUGGED iN coordinator Panelists: Kecia Ali, John Burt, Gary Goshgarian, Miles Unger

1:00 Feeding the Fire: How to Engage Your Community(Community Room)
Creative ways of sharing your work. Panel moderator: Jessie Brown, published poet and teacher Panelists: Michelle Bates Deakin, Ghanda Di Figlia, Maria Judge, Charles Schwab

2:00 Story Craft (Reading Room)
Beyond the beginning, the middle, and the end. Panel moderator: John Chu, Hugo Award Winner Panelists: Kendall Dudley, Anjali Mitter Duva, Mike Heppner

2:00 Promoting Your Work (Community Room)
Side effects of self-promotion: nausea, dizziness, and success. Panel moderator: Matt Clark, creative director of Provincetown Public Press Panelists: Jennifer Goebel, Carolyn Jenks, Tony McMillen, Valerie Ann Prescott

3:00 Featured Speaker: Steve Almond (Community Room)
There’s Murder In That Game: Steve Almond Tackles Football, America’s Biggest Sacred Cow

4:15 – 4:45 Final book sales

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Guest Post by Author Kimberly Castillo

kimberly castilloToday, on the blog, I’m featuring a guest post by author Kimberly Castillo. Kimberly has recently self published a book called The Convenience of Lies, a story of friendship, mystery, crime, sex and betrayal. Kimberly is a strong believer in self-publishing, and her post is below.

By the way, before we get to Kimberly’s post, I’d like to say that I also believe in self-publishing for some authors. Before publishing Living by Ear with Booktrope, I self-published it, and it was a very good experience for me. My biggest problem with self-publishing was with marketing, but Kimberly seems to be doing a great job of that on her own. Thank you, Kimberly, and congratulations! I look forward to reading The Convenience of Lies.

Self-Publishing is the Future

Two separate small publishers offered me contracts to publish The Convenience of Lies. I turned both of them down because I didn’t like the terms they were offering. For both contracts I would receive minimal royalties (less than $0.25/copy sold), would be required to do all of my own publicity, and I would have to sign away the rights to my book. One publisher even required me to pay my own editor! At that point, it seemed like all the publishers were really providing for me was cover art and prestige, and for a very high price.

To be honest, I didn’t want to sell myself out like this. The Convenience of Lies is a project I started 10 years ago and I have truly invested my heart, time, money, and soul. While I was shopping my book around the traditional publishing world, it fell into the hands of an editorial reviewer, who gave me a glowing review of my work. Not only that, but my mom is a high school English teacher and she’s had boys in her class who don’t like to read complete it in one night, by choice. I was not about to let a traditional publisher take advantage of my creation.

At the same time as I was querying publishers, I was also researching self-publishing. I discovered that I could self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace and receive royalties of over $5.00/copy, which is more than a 20x increase from traditional publishing. Also, CreateSpace has a cover creator tool that I could use to generate the cover, and has a print on demand option. Meaning, when someone orders my book from Amazon, CreateSpace prints it, takes their cut of the profit, and sends me the royalties. There is no up-front cost for either party.

Not only is self-publishing arguably a better business decision, due to the internet it is now the choice of the future. We are in an era where we don’t need a publisher to reach our audience. The internet has cut out the middle man and made it so that artists can reach their audience directly. This applies not only to publishing your book, but also to promoting your book. Between tumblr, twitter, facebook, reddit, and the blogosphere, you can reach out directly to readers as I am doing now. Keep in mind that many traditional publishers require authors to do this promotional work. So, let me ask you, what is that traditional publisher really doing for its authors?

As ironic as it is for me to say as an author, the world of traditional publishing is ending. Artists can now affordably create professional works and also reach their audience as never before. Not only that (and a real cincher) the author can also keep possession of the rights to their works through self-publishing. The world of traditional publishing is simply taking too much from authors and not giving them enough in return. The internet has cut out the middle man with the connections and has given you direct access to those connections. As they say, it is simply up to you to seize this opportunity.

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Clockwork Conversations: Interview on Februarys Grace’s Blog

clockwork chats photoWriter February Grace was kind enough to feature an interview with me on her Clockwork Conversations blog today. February likes to interview writers about things that aren’t writing, so it was really fun chatting with her.

Here’s the link–please check it out!

–Mary

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Weighty Issues and the Vital Role of Health Professionals

forks

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

If there’s one topic that all women can relate to in one way or another, it’s weight. And yet, even in these supposedly enlightened times, there’s still a lot of stress, confusion and conflict around the whole business of body mass. I’m neither a doctor nor an expert, but as a long-term eating disorders veteran (the word “survivor” evokes far too many memories of bad 80s music for my taste), I can say with confidence that every person is extremely unique, and we all need to figure out what works best for us as individuals if we wish to stay healthy and happy.

So why is it that so many of us are still looking for universal solutions? Why is it that in 2014, people are still preaching about diets—like the Paleo—which advocates say will work for everyone? Why can’t we—as intelligent, complex beings—accept that taking care of ourselves isn’t easy, and that there’s no cookie-cutter solution to good health?

Now before I go any further, let me say that certain choices—smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol and drugs, etc.—are never good. If you want to live a long, happy life, please avoid those things. Another universally bad choice is shaming people for their appearance. If you know someone that you think may be too heavy or too thin, please don’t make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, if it seems appropriate, perhaps you can suggest that they talk to their doctor or see a therapist who may be able to help.

OK, so let’s get back to the other stuff. First of all, it’s a fact that obesity is an epidemic in America, as is diabetes. These diseases destroy countless lives every year and cost millions of dollars in healthcare spending. It’s also true that many of the bad eating habits associated with these illnesses begin in childhood, so I applaud Michelle Obama and the thousands of health professionals who’ve worked tirelessly on initiatives to combat youth obesity. Their work is seeing good results, and that’s a great thing.

Unfortunately, another serious health problem is also quite prevalent among American youth (especially girls): anorexia. One statistic I found on the website of ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) states that the mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females between the ages of 15 and 24. And yet, as our school cafeterias eliminate foods high in fat and calories, kids at risk of becoming anorexic are receiving messages that are quite detrimental to them. Trust me: as a former anorexic who knows several young women currently suffering from this disease, not all kids need to limit fat intake, nor should they be instructed to do so. I know this is a complicated situation and that everyone’s doing their best to make the country healthier, but I urge parents and guardians concerned about their children’s weight—especially if they suspect eating disorders—to make an appointment with a physician, therapist, or certified nutritionist. These people can assess a child as an individual and give advice specific advice. And with any luck, the child will listen.

And speaking of listening, it’s hard not to listen to pop music and the various messages we receive from it every day. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written on that topic, but I’d like to focus on just a couple of the songs that are popular right now, and look at the messages they convey about body image.

The first is Meghan Trainor’s infectious hit “All About That Bass” celebrates those of us who “ain’t no size two.” Ms. Trainor strikes me as an intelligent, healthy woman, and a sharp, talented songwriter. I’m certain she’s helped a lot of larger women feel sexy and positive about their bodies with her song, and that’s a magnificent achievement. But every time I hear it, I can’t help cringing at the line, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Come on, now! Let’s not worry about what the boys like. Women’s bodies aren’t here for boys and men to enjoy. Our bodies are the containers in which we carry around our hearts, minds, and souls, and they need to work for us, first and foremost. So just as we shouldn’t worry about a bit of extra weight, our goal shouldn’t be adding pounds so that men will have something extra to squeeze.

Similarly, Nicki Minaj’s song “Anaconda” pays tribute to curvaceous women, and I commend her for that. Ms. Minaj is an incredibly gifted songwriter and rapper, as well as a beautiful woman who appears healthy and extremely comfortable in her own skin. All of which make her a strong female role model for young girls. She has also spoken out about downplaying sex appeal and focusing on using intelligence to get ahead in life. So does she really need to include the line, “F*ck those skinny bitches?” in her song? How does that help girls who weren’t blessed with curvy bodies?

I guess what I’m saying is that although I’m glad we’ve got both government initiatives and pop culture working to engender healthier bodies and attitudes in America, we’ve still got a way to go. Certainly, there’s no one solution to our “weighty” problems. What works for one person probably won’t work for another, so I hope people will take the time to discuss their health, weight and related issues with qualified professionals.

 

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Busking Really Can Lead to Stardom!

Crawley BuskerIf you’ve read my new novel, Living by Ear, you know it’s about a former street musician–also known as a busker–named Christine Daley, who made a name for herself in Boston in the 1990s. In the present-day part of the story, Chris is a forty-something wife and mother in the middle of a divorce, desperately trying to revive her music career.

And not to give away any plot spoilers, but at one point in the story, Chris is encouraged to participate in a music competition similar to American Idol

So I was delighted to learn that a well-known British busker named Tom Stephenson (a.k.a. Busker Tom) has made it to the regional finals of an English national singing competition called Open Mic UK.

Mr. Stephenson has a unique busking style. Rather than just singing and playing songs on his guitar, he brings a collection of different percussion instruments with him wherever he goes, and encourages audience members to participate in his performances. In addition to being a busker, he’s a teaching assistant at a special needs school in Kent, and the frontman in a band called The Get Back Beats. You can read more about him here.

Best of luck, Tom Stephenson! I’ll be rooting for you here in the States!

 

 

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Author Ina Zajac on Creating Characters, Spirituality, Domestic Violence & More

ina.zajacToday, I’m so happy to feature one of my favorite new authors, Ina Zajac, on the blog. Ina’s novel, Please, Pretty Lights is a gritty story about a woman’s search for love and happiness in a world that has let her down in some horrific ways.

MR: So Ina, when did you realize that you wanted to write novels? Also, do you write full time, or do you have another job?

IZ: I remember wanting to be an author back in high school, but it just seemed I should be a journalist first. Back then I wasn’t confident that I had anything worthwhile to say to the world. It seemed I didn’t have enough life experience from which to draw. Yes, I do write full time or as close to full time as I can manage as a busy mother.

MR: Yes, I understand that. As a mom of two teens, I go through periods of time when I get a lot of writing done, but other times, family stuff is more important. Anyway, I loved Please, Pretty Lights for numerous reasons. One is your protagonist, Via, who’s a complicated person, to say the least. How did you come up with the concept of Via?

IZ: Via has evolved quite a bit since she first started to visit my daydreams. Initially, she was a young church girl who was desperate to broaden her horizons. After meeting Matt and Nick she begins to wonder why these two drug dealers seem to show much more honor and kindness than members of her own church community. At the same time, I began thinking about Via as a young girl; the witness to her father’s untreated mental health issues and her mother’s inability to free herself. This knowledge fueled my desire to make her so bent on receiving attention from men. Later her corny sense of humor and sweet heart became clear.

MR: One thing I found interesting in Please, Pretty Lights is the church that Via is involved with. I think you did a great job describing the nature of that church, which seemed to be based on good principles, but attracted both wonderful people and others who were, well, less wonderful. Why did you choose to write about this church? Were you expressing personal views about religion, or is the church simply an allegory for society in general?

IZ: Okay, brutal honesty alert: I am a spiritual person with an old-school church background. I am rebellious by nature, always questioning authority. I attended a Catholic high school as a non-Catholic. I never bought into the concept of confession because I thought having a priest – a middle man – was unnecessary. Why couldn’t I just go to a park and meditate? I wondered. Can’t god meet me in a park? Or anywhere? And, if god is omnipresent, then wouldn’t god already know my faults? To each their own, but for me god is not a judgmental outside force anyway. God is who we already are. I don’t believe we are separated. You are god. I am god, and so is absolutely every person, and thing. Every particle is “part” of god. Think Carl Sagan from the original Cosmos. We are all “star stuff.” This being said, I have been fortunate to meet countless “good” religious types. The character Beth serves to exemplify them. They are the quiet ones. You won’t see them on television criticizing anyone because they are too busy loving, serving, and shining their light.

MR: That’s so interesting. I went to Catholic elementary school and also taught in a Catholic school after graduating from college. (My mom’s cousin was a nun and she helped me get the job). But for various reasons I won’t get into in the interest of saving space, neither of these schools struck me as particularly “churchy,” and at both of them, I met so many people–many who weren’t Catholic, but were certainly spiritual–who were there to help other people learn and grow. I don’t practice any organized religion now and I’m really saddened by many of the political views embraced by modern Catholicism, but I also think it’s criminal how religious radicals and extremists have given a bad name to people like Beth, who is kind, nonjudgemental, and beautiful.

So let’s move on to another topic. Via is also the victim of some terrible violence. I found some parts of the book upsetting, as I find all violence–especially violence against women–sickening. What compelled you to add this to the story?

IZ: Violence against women and children happens. It’s difficult to talk about, but I wanted to try. Via models her own mother’s journey. The cycle of abuse is persistent. Via spent her early years hearing her mother say things like, “Please be a good girl today. Let’s not make Daddy mad.” The message there is one of misplaced responsibility. It’s a sick, but prevalent belief. “Daddy is mad because I did something to make him mad.” I believe we can never make anyone else do or feel anything. Making someone else happy or sad is a myth. It’s an easy excuse, but false. If a man is going to beat his wife, it has little to do with her at all, but with his own issues: fear, addiction, anger, lack of control, abusive childhood. Personally, my father was very kind. Rarely even raised his voice. Still, as an adult I was involved in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I recently wrote a blog about it. I have been overwhelmed with the positive comments I’ve received since.

MR: Yes, that was an incredible blog post, and I’m sure it took a lot of courage to write. On a lighter note, the characters of Matt and Nick are delightful, well-rounded people. I fell in love with both of them, not only because they’re kind to Via, but also because of their flaws. They seem extremely real. Are either or both of these characters based on real people?

IZ: I love Matt. I love Nick. They represent the flip side of Via’s father and Carlos. I love men and believe most men out there are Nicks and Matts. I feel most men are well intentioned, but confused about what women really want and need. Men get their hearts broken all the time. They make tough choices. They make mistakes. Though it all, they are less likely to ever receive emotional support or forgiveness. Nick, for example, has serious childhood abandonment issues. Yet, he feels he is supposed to buck up and focus on the needs of his friends. Nick is a protector (not a complainer) because he figures that’s what it means to be a man.

MR: Yes, all people are complicated, and life is a confusing thing. I consider myself a feminist and am so glad society is really starting to focus on women and women’s issues, because there’s so much there, and so many abuses have happened both recently and historically. And yet, men can’t be neglected either, because, as you point out, it’s not easy for them either, and most men mean well. So here’s one final question: what’s next on your writing agenda, Ina?

IZ: I am currently working on the sequel: Play, Pretty Lights, which picks up the story six months after Please, Pretty Lights. Matt and Via are still featured, but in this book Nick has a bigger role, as does Whitney. It’s a stand-alone novel, but those who’ve read the first book will enjoy an extra layer.

MR: Thank you so much for being a guest today, Ina! I can’t wait until Play, Pretty Lights is available. And in the meantime, if people want to check out Please, Pretty Lights, it’s available here on Amazon.

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Leaving the Beach $.99 Sale–October 2, 3 & 4

high res coverHi All,

If you haven’t had a chance to read Leaving the Beach, this is a good time to check it out. It’s on a three-day sale starting today (October 2, 3 & 4). Just $.99 for Kindle and Nook.

Get it here on Amazon or here at Barnes and Noble

Here’s a quick plot synopsis:

Erin Reardon gets her first kiss from Jim Morrison. She loses her virginity to David Bowie. When she flunks out of college, Bruce Springsteen is there to comfort her, and Elvis Costello breaks her heart in Europe. So what happens when she actually meets a rock star? Leaving the Beach is a gritty story about illusion, reality, and the odd ways that music can blur the lines between the two.

Written with heart and keen observation about the day-to-day struggles of a “functioning bulimic,” Leaving the Beach explores the power of fantasy, then shoves it up against harsh reality until something has to give in this women’s novel set on the sandy beaches of Winthrop, Massachusetts.

I hope you try it! I’d also love to hear your honest feedback, and feel free to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble.com if you’re up for that sort of thing. Thank you!!

Mary

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