Finding a Photographer

Thomas Donley

At my very first book event in 2017, an old family friend approached me, and said, “Your pictures are awful.” What a gut-punch on such a happy night, and while I think she was wrong, and not very nice either, I was anxious that I get the author photo right when I heard that Algonquin Books was going to publish my memoir, FLESH&BLOOD, in October 2021.

Authors tend to be shy. I avoid mirrors, don’t brush my hair every single day. I don’t mind revealing my life in my writing, but I’m not fond of being seen, so the photo worried me.

I’m old enough now to know the above about myself, and to know that I can’t fake a smile, or look relaxed when I’m not, and so I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I would see if my childhood friend and ace professional photographer Thomas Donley might be willing. I knew that he was not only an incredible photographer, but that I could relax around him. When we’re together, we laugh, and so he kindly made the trip to our home in the middle of the 2020 Pandemic Summer, and we shot outside. And we did laugh, and that genius got several pictures that I love, which is a miracle, including the one above that will be on the jacket of my next book.

My advice is to find a talented friend to photograph you if possible, or check out my pal Tommy’s website below.

visit his website here http://www.thomasdonley.com/?fbclid=IwAR2NVGN6lSDjNLSFeR6kBHguAOsOmvZ7U0IaXBBIkEQsU0srFmBRimokmi4

Giveaway on Goodreads through June 12, 2021

We are still months from publication of Flesh and Blood (October from Algonquin), but the process continues to roll out in lovely and unexpected ways.

A friend emailed me yesterday morning to say that she had been alerted by Goodreads of a “giveaway” of the book. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that Algonquin had posted a free giveaway of 50 copies of my book on Goodreads! That seems a massive number of books to give away, and I take it as a vote of confidence from the publisher, and as a bid to generate interest. It’s all lovely.

As of this morning, a day into the give away (which is open until June 13th) over 450 people have registered to win a free copy of Flesh and Blood, a shocking number to me, and one that reminds me that this book will reach beyond the small circle of friends and supporters that my last book reached. Here’s a link to that giveaway. If you’d like to enter to win a free copy, please do so. If you’d like to share the link on social media, that’s nice too, but no pressure. Mostly, I’m sitting over here, the writing and editing of the book done, marveling at the marketing machine as it rolls delightfully along.

Here’s the Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/324067-flesh-and-blood

Finding a Photographer

At my very first book event in 2017, an old family friend approached me, and said, “Your pictures are awful.” What a gut-punch on such a happy night, and while I think she was wrong, and not very nice either, I was anxious that I get the author photo right when I heard that AlgonquinContinue reading “Finding a Photographer”

Goodreads and Blurbs

For any of you out there wondering how you can support your author friends, I’ll post ideas here from time to time. In addition to buying our books and bringing friends to our readings, there are some actions you can take now. If you are on Goodreads, for example, you can find my author pageContinue reading “Goodreads and Blurbs”

Goodreads and Blurbs

For any of you out there wondering how you can support your author friends, I’ll post ideas here from time to time.

In addition to buying our books and bringing friends to our readings, there are some actions you can take now. If you are on Goodreads, for example, you can find my author page (N. West Moss) and you can “follow” me. You can also search in the search bar for “Flesh and Blood by N. West Moss” and click the “want to read” button. We’re up to something like 30 people who want to read the book when it comes out in October, and supposedly early interest helps the book come up in searches of people looking for the next book to read.

Other than that, my editor and I are now busily soliciting and collecting blurbs for the book. This is one of those steps you’ve probably never thought about, but it’s a big favor to ask of a busy author. If we say no, we feel bad, and if we say yes, it means that we’re committing to read an entire book and distill our thought about it to 1 or 2 lines. You can see where an author would have to say no to this a lot, since it can take a chunk of time to read a book, and we all have so much reading we have to do anyway. So it’s a generous gift when an author says yes. I’ve reached out to one author who had to pass, but three other authors have said yes, and we have those blurbs in hand already.

Next step? Well, we’re hoping on another yes or two from some authors, and we still have some copyediting to finish up. I hope that soon I’ll be able to share that cover with you. I haven’t even seen the final version, but the mock-up was so beautiful that it made me get a little misty.

In the meantime, keep me in mind for your book clubs come fall and winter.

Publication date for FLESH & BLOOD (10/12/21)

The word is out that Algonquin will be publishing my memoir, FLESH&BLOOD: Reflections on Infertility, Family, and Creating a Bountiful Life on October 12, 2021.

Working with Algonquin has been a revelation. They are such pros and so dedicated to putting out the finest product possible, and shepherding it to success, that almost every step of the way has been brand new for me – behind-the-scenes stuff like working on getting the title just right, and reaching out to friends and strangers to get blurbs, and making videos for booksellers, and so much more.

But the date is now set, and that means that all sorts of good things are set in motion, mostly thinking about what a pleasure it will be for me to know that all of you can have this book in your hands. It’s a book that is deeply personal, of course. I’ll probably never write a book this personal again, and am happily reveling in writing some straight-up fiction right now, which I feel I can hide behind in a way I just can’t with memoir.

Also, I’m beginning to compile lists of friends and friends-of-friends who might want to read this book with their book groups. Book groups were a revelation to me with my last book. I had a blast visiting with many book groups and getting to interact on an intimate level with readers. This book seems especially good for the intimacy that book groups provide, and it looks like I already have 7 book groups interested, so there are new friends on the horizon.

The next cool thing will be when I get to reveal the beautiful cover art that the artists at Algonquin are working on now, so stay tuned for that!

Writing Advice

Here’s a piece that was published by Dinty Moore at Brevity a few years back. I’m more convinced than ever that, to create art of any kind, you must practice what I call “radical self-acceptance.” I ask students, “What if Stephen King cared what we thought of his obsessions?” We must accept what matters to us, for better or worse. Otherwise we’re just writing what we think we ought to write, rather than what we alone have to say.

https://brevity.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/writers-let-your-freak-flag-fly/#comments

Book Recs

Perhaps you need a recommendation to help you figure out what book to buy for a friend or loved one with holiday season. The following list is made up of books I’ve read this year, but I have long lists of great books I can recommend from years past. Here are my top 5 for this year:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This is a short, gorgeous memoir. Kalanithi was both a medical doctor and a PhD in literature, an odd combination that means he is uniquely capable of telling the story of his own illness. It’s a heart-breaker and an inspiration, and unlike many medical books, it’s written beautifully.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This book was on just about every list of must-reads, so I got it, read it, and was haunted by it. Gyasi tells the story of many generations of a black African family as it lives through slavery, and freedom in America. It is unsentimental (in the best sense), and while it is sweeping over many generations, Gyasi manages to keep the tension high. It’s a remarkable book, lush, haunting, upsetting, and as with much of good literature, makes you feel you’ve lived a life you otherwise would not have had access to.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is a YA book, but I don’t care. I’m an adult and I loved it. LOVED IT. People have been recommending this book to me for years, and I regret not reading it sooner, and I already plan to read it again. The narrator is a young man who is ostracized, but manages to have the most endearing, hilarious, charm-filled, honest, unusual voices I can remember.

Ginny Moon: A Novel by Benjamin Ludwig. Written by a teacher who, in his own life, took in and later adopted a foster child with autism. The novel is told from the point of view of a 14-year old girl with autism, and I was transported into her mind and her world. It is masterful the way this author lets us see an entire world and a heart-breaking, lovable character even though she has limited language. I was going to just read a page or two, but couldn’t put it down. I read it into the night, and finished it at 1am, weeping with happiness.

 

an Agent

I have known that I wanted an agent for several years now, but only had a short story collection to give to them, and no agents are interested in short story collections. So I went about getting that book published on my own with Leap Frog Press, and then I was compelled to write a book, a little memoir about an illness that I had last year.

It turned into a weird kind of book, not exactly like anything else I’d read, a little bit of Ann LaMott, a little bit of a Dutch author I’d discovered in Holland named A. L. Snijders, with perhaps a bit of Mary Oliver thrown in.

Two friends read it for me and gave me notes, and I revised it, getting the book as good as I was able to make it. Then I asked a friend if I could take a look at his query letter, which he generously allowed me to see. Two friends suggested I query their agents (you can see how dependent we artists are on one another, for feedback, for query letters, for agent introductions), and I wrote my own query letter and then sent it to the two agents I had introductions to.

One agent never responded. I understood, she gets something like 200-300 query letters A DAY (so I’m told), and I also understood that writers have to query a lot of agents before one is interested enough to read an entire manuscript, but this other agent did ask to read it, to my delight. I sent it to her, and about 3 months later, she called and said that she loved it, and had a few notes to give me, and that if I could revise it, she would reconsider it.

I was in the middle of a wildly busy semester, teaching 4 writing classes and taking classes at Columbia in their Narrative Medicine Program, but this seemed like the brass ring, and I didn’t feel I could say no. I said yes, of course, and I said yes also because I liked her notes, which were gentle and right along the lines of what I already knew, by then, should be developed. So I told her she would have the new draft within 5 weeks, by the end of October, and I set to work clearing everything out of my life that I could. I wrote to friends and family and said to just not look for me for a month or so, and I got down to work. Some of the revisions were complicated enough that I actually went to a motel to work twice, taping notes up all over the walls where I wouldn’t be interrupted for 24 hours straight.

And then, on October 31st, I sent it off to the agent, thinking I wouldn’t hear back from her for another 2 months or so, and with some relief, I got back to my teaching, my laundry, my emails … back to my life. But the next day, November 1st, she sent me a little email just saying how much she was enjoying reading the revisions, and by the day after that, November 2nd, she and I were on the phone, and I had contracts in my e-mail, and a plan was hatched to try and sell this book.

SO that’s where I sit right now – I’m burnt out from the harried revisions, from the busiest semester of my life, but I have an agent, AN AGENT! which is a dream come true, really. I don’t know how this will pan out, whether she’ll be able to auction off the book for an enormous or a modest sum, or whether it will stall and no one will want to buy it. Who knows?  Regardless, my writing is now supported by a professional team that will add to my personal team, and I embark on this new kind of collaboration, where she does what she is good at (and what I am decidedly NOT good at), and so the journey continues.

Watertown Daily Times

My trip to Watertown, NY was magical. I love the North Country, as it’s called, especially in July with the roadside effusion of Queen Ann’s lace and chicory. Not only was I surrounded by friends, I found a writer’s haven there. The bookstore, The Reading Room, has a wall of dozens of local authors and their books which would put Greenwich Village to shame. I also got to explore a friend’s writing shed, which has sparked fantasies of having my own one installed somewhere on our property.

Chris Brock of the Watertown Daily Times wrote up a nice review of the book, and of my visit. There are a few tiny corrections I’d make if I could, but the only one that really matters is that I’m 53, not 54! Ha. Nope, none of them really matter. It’s a lovely article, and I even approve of the photograph.

Click here for WDT article

TV Interview

I had my first TV interview while up in Watertown, NY this past weekend. It’s 12 minutes long, and well, I learned a lot about how I might approach it differently next time. Still, I love the questions that Craig Thornton asked me. He made it feel like a real discussion about writing, which made it a lot of fun for me. Here’s the link to the interview.  http://www.wwnytv.com/story/35933365/craigs-to-do-list-interview-n-west-moss-author

author interview