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Monday, February 18, 2019

A Few of My Favorite Things

But first, a shameless plug for Ed Farrell's debut novel with Dark Ink Press:
White Angel. Clergyman Mickey Powell has been accused of murder...

And that's all I'm going to give you. The book is stunning, set at General Seminary in New York, which coincidentally has appeared in numerous episodes of Law & Order. Mickey Powell is the perfect embodiment of the human side of an Episcopalian minister, desperate to clear his name and solve a murder he most definitely didn't commit.

Ed has also entered his book into the Santa Fe Writer's Project's 2019 Literary Awards! I may be a bit biased since I published this book, but I think it's a winner. Hopefully, guest judge Carmen Machado will think so too.

When I was first assigned to SFWP for my internship I didn't know what to expect. Would I be treated as an equal, or a lowly MFA student who couldn't do much more than proofread emails? I wondered whether I would be happy with my internship and learn anything valuable, or if it would be just one more thing I'd resent having to add to my schedule.

A few weeks before the semester started and our internships officially kicked off, Andrew sent out an email asking if Beth and I would be interested in starting our internships early. Of course, we both said yes because who wouldn't? I jumped in on social media and helped straighten out the Instagram account which, prior to the start of the semester, consisted mostly of photos of Andrew's weekends at the Mussel Bar in Bethesda. Of course the weekend Instagram crowd still loves the cocktail shots but it's been a blast creating and posting a variety of content that helps promote the current catalog, new releases, the literary magazine, and the contest. I've also found that grammar humor goes a long way for the reading crowd! Who knew?

What I love most about this internship is I was allowed to slide right in and start working as if I had been there all along. There was no awkward "getting to know you" phase, no moments of feeling measured up or judged. I was just accepted as part of the team and allowed to operate using my best judgment. I was given access to all of the social media accounts after Andrew joked that it wasn't worth stealing his identity or personal information, and I am constantly being sent items that can be posted. I'm never at a loss for content. If anything, we have far more than we'll ever have an opportunity to use.

The best part of working with Andrew is being able to tell him what I want to accomplish and he provides me with everything I need to do it, including sending me hard copies of books and connecting me directly to the authors he prints. He's even given me the opportunity to do small projects for the authors above and beyond my media work.

I've also gotten to be chief reader on the contest entries that we get in which has actually been a blast. I love reading people's work and seeing what they've decided to send out into the world, knowing that it's one of the scariest things a writer can do. I'm pulling for each and every one of them while occasionally being astonished by the patent lack of preparation some writers put into their submissions. All I can say is, don't submit until your piece has been edited to its best!

Now I'm embarking on a final read of a manuscript that will be coming out in the fall and prepping the media for that novel. I'm also prepping media for the two releases coming out in May which both just earned favorable Kirkus reviews which was really exciting.

All in all, I think it would be really difficult for me to find something I DON'T like about this internship...

Saturday, February 2, 2019

All Good Things

I'm taking a break from everything by watching a psychological thriller called All Good Things with Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. I do this a lot while working on my thesis to help ground me in my work. The movie is based on the real-life disappearance of Kathleen Durst, wife of New York real estate heir Robert Durst. It's live action creative nonfiction in a way and makes me think about my tone and my approach as I'm writing. I also watch a lot of documentaries. A favorite is Cropsey, a doc about an urban legend that grew from the foundations of the abandoned Willowbrook State School in Staten Island. Rewatching Cropsey actually helped me re-form the beginning of my thesis.

I thought that writing my thesis while doing an internship (plus working and running my own press) was a recipe for stress and possible disaster. Funny enough, I've never felt more organized and settled. I fell into a groove with my internship that was like slipping on a favorite sweater. Andrew welcomed me onto the team as if I had always been there, had always been a part of the team. He assumed I knew what I was doing and treated me as such. So far I think I've done well proving that his confidence in me was just.

It didn't feel like a beginning of any kind, more like a continuation, even though this year has been a new beginning in many ways. I started my married life, transferred to a new school, started work on two new books.

But it was also a continuation of things. Continuing on the path to my MFA, continuing to work on the house.

Then there were the restarts. Picking up my art again. Then striking a deal with a publisher to restart the first book I ever wrote ten years ago, prepping it for a relaunch.

So here I am, learning the ins and outs of SFWP which is the press I would most like Dark Ink to look like, and I'm having a blast. I've had the opportunity to learn more about marketing, evaluating full-length pieces for a contest, and pulling marketing material from the short pieces that will make up the current issue of the Quarterly. I've gotten to see how a strong, effective team of readers and writers works together to make the press run smoothly.

I've also gotten to watch, first-hand, Andrew's passion for the books that he publishes and the authors he works with. Even though his own work is part of SFWP's catalog, he's more concerned about getting his authors as much exposure as possible and that their work is handled with the utmost care and enthusiasm.

This week he sent me a small collection of works that I had requested from him so that I could start taking some staged photos of the books like the large publishing houses do. My favorite bookstagram feed is Putnam books. Every image is carefully taken and curated to highlight their publications in a smart, and marketable way. They create images that people want to share and that's what is most important in the world of social media marketing. You can't just catch someone's eye-- you have to make them want to tell the rest of the world about what they've seen.

Stupid me, I went and looked at their feed and just got distracted for a good ten minutes. I also may or may not have entered a contest for a free copy of The Editor by Steven Rowley.

What was I talking about again? Oh yes. Beginnings.
I'm beginning to appreciate even more that books, reading, writing, and teaching all of the above were all the right choices.