Tag Archives: publishing

Yes, I’m alive and I have news!

16 Nov

Ever since stopping my weekly posting, I have been pathetic about keeping up with my blog. As you all have seen! But there are a few reasons for that. One is that I was writing a book. Then I stopped writing that book and began writing a different one – the one which I’d been avoiding for a long time.

Now that book is almost finished and I’m ready to begin shopping it around. In light of that, I have begun a new blog which explains about the book and, by default, explains why I’ve been neglecting this one!

So long story short, here’s the link and please check it out!


In the mean time, here’s something else to look into if you’re feeling like treating yourself to some beautiful music. My cousin has a new CD out!


Here’s a wonderful review of the CD!


And here’s a link to find out more!


I hope you look into (and subscribe to!) the new blog – I’m very excited about this! When I started blogging in 2011, this is where I was headed and now I’m getting close!

Thanks, all!


I’m Done

12 Mar

So the story goes that J.K.Rowling, when she finished writing her seventh and last Harry Potter novel at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, wrote on the base of a bust of Hermes, “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.”

I have no statues or heads of statues nearby, nor do I have sufficient clout to assume that anyone would even want me to write on their statue should there be any around, so I am choosing, instead, to write to you, my blogland friends:

I, Gretchen O’Donnell, have finished editing my children’s novel, tentatively titled, “The Children of Eel Pond Island” on this day, March 12, 2013, in BenLees Café, in Worthington, Minnesota, at 2:00 in the afternoon.

I am full of caffeine.

I am heady with joy.

I am scared to death.

I am done.

The Gooble-Gooble Monster

27 Sep


Today’s post has two parts to it. Part one: the happy part. Part two: the defiant part. I would have posted the happy part alone, but it was kinda short. And as for the defiant part, well, it seemed like it needed a little leavening.

So…PART ONE: the beginning of the dream.

When I was small, I wrote a book. It was called, “The Gooble-Gooble Monster” and it was about a scary-looking monster who was actually kind. (Original, I know.) He came across a little girl and she was frightened by his scary face, but then she got to know him and realized he was actually friendly. The end.

I told my sister the story and she helped me make it into a book. She wrote it out for me and I drew the pictures. It was the size of an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper, cut into four. We taped it together. All seven pages. Then we showed it to Mom and she, of course, admired it with all appropriate motherly love.

For a long time it hung around on my dresser. I would look at it occasionally, admiringly, appraisingly. Then, one day, it was gone. I looked in my garbage. Had it fallen in? I looked under my dresser. Under my bed. Nada. I looked for it for months.

For about 25 years I wondered what had happened to it.

Signs of the season.

Then, one day, Mom sent me some stuff. Stuff she’d kept for years in a file marked, appropriately, “Gretchen”. And there it was. The Gooble-Gooble Monster in all its glory. I cried, I was so amazed.

Was it the work of art I had remembered? Yes, it was. It was imperfect perfection, just what a child’s homemade book should be, and it proved something to me: this dream I have, of writing, isn’t new to me. It’s older than my ability to write.


PART TWO: fulfilling the dream.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about…writing! It’s amazing to me what a L-O-N-G process this all is. Writing/editing/publishing is an exercise in patience, and this is only just the beginning. Things are moving along…and at a good pace…just don’t be saving your pennies quite yet or expect to pre-order my book on Amazon in the near future! One step at a time…and some of the steps are rather lengthy. BUT…progress is being made and I’m hoping to approach my first-choice agent quite soon. Hopefully I’ll have some fun stuff to report in the next month or two!

Fall has its advantages.

People ask me, from time to time, if I’ve found a publisher yet. Someone the other day, when I said something about my book, did the ultimate dreaded thing: he said, “Oh, you wrote a book? What’s it called?” And I said, “I’m not certain of the final title yet.” And he said, “Oh. So it’s not published,” and then turned away with a look on his face that said, “Yeah, whatever. You can’t call yourself a writer. You’re not one. You’re just a wanna-be. You’re just like so many other people out there in the world who ‘wrote a book’…and it’s never going to see the light of day because no one thinks it’s good enough to publish. Go back to your dusting, little housewife.”

Yes, perhaps I’m reading into his response. But truly, that’s what his look and his real words said…just in the expanded form! I was saddened by his response, and I wanted to say, “Hey! I haven’t even gotten to the point of ASKING a publisher yet! Give me a break here! I only just finished editing!” But he turned away, talking to someone else, and I didn’t get to explain. I didn’t get to defend. Somehow, later on, to return to the conversation seemed desperate and unnecessary. And really, I don’t care what that person thinks of me, anyway! I know what I’ve done, and I’m good with that.

One of Katie's favorite creaturess.

What have I done? I’ve written a manuscript for a book that I hope will be published. I’ve taken 3.5 years of my life and WRITTEN A BOOK! I’ve taken my heart, my imagination, my brains, my memory, my dreams, and written a book. I AM a writer! I’m not a wanna-be. I WRITE. That makes me a writer. I’m even thinking about getting business cards! Whoo hoo!


It’s just that the process is taking forever.

So, for those of you who have been wondering…for those of you who woke up today, knowing that it’s a Tuesday, and excitedly anticipating reading about my most recent epiphanies…now you know what’s going on. I’m waiting. I’m learning patience, because this is only the beginning. There’s a heck of a lot of waiting yet to come.

So my epiphany for the week is this: while I wait, I move ahead. Perhaps a sequel? Perhaps something totally new? Perhaps I smile to myself at the nay-sayers. The eye-rollers. The deniers.

I am a writer because I write.

So there.

I even have a taped-together decade-old book, written by me, to prove it.

Perhaps, like the Gooble-Gooble monster, this process will turn out to be a friendly one.

Sometimes Epiphanies Come in Neon-Green Flashes of Light

26 Jul

Didn't catch this lightning bug flashing, but here he is...in all his non-glowing glory.

So…it just O’Ccurred to me that I often begin my blog entries with “So…” Oops! On the other hand, I like the feeling that we’re continuing a conversation – that I’ve just stepped out for a minute and now am back, ready to pick up where we left off. Somehow “so…” sets that tone for me.

So…I bought the 2011 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition about 3 weeks ago. I opened it today for the first time. “Why,” you might be wondering, “did you wait so long when this is the thing you’re aiming at? SELLING your book? Finding an agent, finding a publisher. Why didn’t you dive right in?” Because it makes me nervous. It makes me afraid. It makes me a wee bit queasy.

I keep telling myself, “Hey, it’s being edited now. Then, inevitably, you’ll need to change things, clean it up, fix stuff. You’ve got plenty of time to research publishers, agents, etc.” Yes. And no. Plenty of time…but the time all goes so quickly. Especially when singing and dancing get in the way. (See last week’s post!)

The singing and dancing is a little less stressful now that I’m getting it somewhat figured out, but it’s even more exhausting with the late nights of practice. We were driving home from rehearsal after dark last night, and, despite my weary state of mind, I was able to admire the lightning bugs. They’re incredible this year.

One got caught in Lucy's hair!

I love the Morse code of the fireflies. I love sitting on the deck as it gets dark and watching them come out randomly across the yard, singly or in groups, like neon-green chips of light sewn in the air by some giant farmer scattering his seeds.

We didn’t have fireflies in Washington…a sad lack in the Pacific Northwest skies. The first time I saw them was in Thailand, the summer of 1989. I remember standing at the edge of the jungle, in the yard of the church where we were staying, and wondering what on God’s green earth I was seeing flashing all over the place like insane disco balls of light. I asked someone what they were and they, being from the southern United States, stared at me through the darkness like I was a crazy woman. “You don’t know what lightning bugs are?”
“Well, sure I do. I’ve just never seen them before. Is that seriously what they are?” I could hardly believe it. “They’re amazing.”

They are unbelievably hard to capture on film. This is the best of about 50 tries!

And they are, truly. They hover over the long wet, boggy grass that is our yard and they speak to each other of their day, their troubles, their love. And we foolish humans gasp and clap our hands at their beauty. This is a gift from God, a reward for the humidity, the soaring temperatures, the long nights of play practice. Lightning bugs: the great stress reliever.

And they’re way more fun than researching publishers.

Writing is Not a Group Effort

5 Jul

I spy...5 Baltimore Orioles! This is my view from my computer. Makes for some inspired writing!

I got a book in the mail today. The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner. Its subtitle is “an editor’s advice to writers” (Riverhead books, New York, revised 2010). I’ve been waiting with slightly worried breath for the mail-lady (the best and nicest mail person I’ve ever met) to drive dustily down our dirt road and deliver this nugget of wisdom to me. Today she came through…even sooner than Amazon.com said she would.

I opened the box. I took out the book, feeling slightly nauseous. I sat down with the book on the couch, legs curled up, coffee at hand. Now allow me to explain something here. I don’t enjoy reading non-fiction books. I don’t curl up and devour them the way I do fiction. Typically, I avoid non-fiction like the plague…which happens to be a huge topic of the most recent non-fiction tome I checked out of the library (677 pages, including index). I’ve skimmed 37 pages…not sure I can take any more. (Yes, I was trying to broaden my horizons. Trouble is, my horizons have a way of tunneling my vision until all I can see is the new Alexander McCall Smith novel on the end-table, tantalizing me with its Scottish dry wit.) I find the middle ages – and its plagues, excesses, and sins – to be a fascinating topic. I often do enjoy history…but I just can’t sit down and read it. It’s not cozy reading. And, to me, that’s what reading is all about.

Reading non-fiction makes me feel like I’m back in school. Yes, I liked school. I even voluntarily went back for more of it after the mandatory 12 years. 4 years of college PLUS 3 years of grad school. I’VE HAD ENOUGH TEXT BOOKS TO LAST ME THE REST OF MY LIFE, and that’s what non-fiction feels like to me: an assigned book which I have to write a report on, and nothing else is as good at stealing your book-reading joy than having to write a report on it. Yes, I enjoyed the topics of my degrees. No, I’ll never get my PhD. Enough already.

SO…imagine my amazement at finding that this book I bought as a type of research towards selling my book (hence my nausea at opening the box) is actually proving to be FUN to read! I’ve been researching how to write a query letter/book proposal, should I get an agent or not, which publisher should I begin with, etc….this is not exactly titillating reading. Not for me, anyway. Colin, my husband – he’s a researcher. He enjoys this stuff. I ask him, “What’s the population of such and such?” and, rather than giving me an off-hand guess, he finds out…right then. (Ah, the power of the internet.) Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy research from time to time. HOWEVER…the definition of hell in my book (figuratively speaking!!! Ha!)…or, at least one of the definitions in the book of Gretchen, would be to be stuck in front of a pile of dry research material at 3:00 in the afternoon with no coffee.

So, anyway, this new book…I’m only on page 37 and I have already had all sorts of, well, epiphanies! Here’s one of the most profound, to date (I may write on more in the future!): writing is lonely work…but it is done with the ultimate intent of sharing. (Note, I am not quoting her directly as I’m not entirely clear on the legality of doing so. I hope my summary is clear!) My first thought upon reading this concept: YES! I write in isolation, things that I hope to share with the masses. Writing is NOT a group effort (I HATED group projects in college!) – I mean, people can collaborate…but the actual writing of a thing comes from ONE head at a time. It’s a lonely event. It’s a solo.

AND YET…the whole point of writing anything down is for it to then be read by someone else…for it to COMMUNICATE ideas with people other than the writer. For it to be read and enjoyed/debated/appreciated. I do concede that there are types of writing that are private. These are written to clarify something to yourself/to exorcise ideas/to journal one’s private thoughts – though doesn’t any journal-keeper find themselves wondering at some point, “What will someone think if they ever read this?” But, these private diaries aside, we write for others. At least, people in my “profession” do. (I’m trying to think of myself as a professional…it’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but it all begins with attitude, yes?!)
We sit and write in secret…but with the purpose of later sharing those ideas together. In other words, leave me alone while I’m writing!!!! BUT PLEASE, pay a lot of attention to me once my book comes out.

An English Major’s Woe

21 Jun

It is exhausting, writing. I remember hearing my English teachers say such things and I didn’t exactly believe them. I mean, I knew it was a bit of work, getting a piece of writing exactly the way I wanted it. But I knew, too, that the basic writing of ideas came fairly easily to me. So easily that I chose to major in English…a degree which my husband, I might add, does not hesitate to scoff (albeit kindly) at. He’s an engineer…and I can’t deny the fact that he’s the one making the money in this household. Thank God for the scientifically-minded…but, I also have to ask, do we not need the writers to keep us amused?  And provoke deep thoughts?  I hope?!

Yes, writing is stressful. But it’s also something I love. I can’t NOT do it. I write random sentences all the time on random bits of paper…many of which have been scribbled on by my children…or blown on by their noses.   Most of them never see the light of day.  But writing blithely off the top of one’s head is different from editing. I’ve been living in the editing world for so long now that finally, last night, I just up and said, “I’m DONE.” I thought I was done two weeks ago. But then I began – foolishly – to read my manuscript through yet again, and discovered that there are still things to be fixed. Yes, a few blatant errors (mostly things that the “find and replace” function didn’t catch, as well as a time-frame issue that arose), but mostly the problems I found were phrases that just weren’t “perfect” or words that didn’t sound quite right.

Perfectionism is a curse and a fallacy when it comes to writing. I truly believe it’s impossible for a writer to ever be totally satisfied with their entire book. One or two phrases here and there may feel almost perfect…but then I worry that I’m somehow blind to their faults, that they’re perhaps overly sentimental or too wordy or that they contain some other horrifying writer’s sin like a run-on sentence or a split infinitive. (What is a split infinitive? I don’t know.  That’s why I switched from Journalism as a major…it was too precise…and competitive.  That’s also why I didn’t make a great English teacher.  It’s hard to teach it when you can’t explain it.  The trick is, I know things are wrong when I see them…at least usually!) And so I fear even those “perfect” phrases. They’re the ones editors tend to CHOP. In college I wrote a poem titled “Killing my Babies” about that exact thing…cutting out lines that I love but that simply need to go for whatever reason. No, I won’t copy that poem for you here…wouldn’t want to lose any readers due to my terrible collegiate scribbles! (And, by the way, I don’t think that I’d use that title again, having children of my own now. Feels a little distasteful…and overly dramatic. Yet another writer’s sin.)

Yes, writing this book has been intense. I can’t even remember exactly when I started it, but I think that it was 3 ½ years ago. Writing goes slowly when you only have an average of 2 ½ hours twice a week to dedicate to it. (Pre-school and/or napping pre-schooler hours.) The end date is fluid, too, as I am finding out. The reality is, it will never be done…until I’m forced to just simply stop perfecting it due to a publisher’s deadline…which, of course, is what I want! And so, I’m beginning that dreaded hunt to find a publisher. Last week I sent my entire book to two people I’ve known for years, but with whom I only recently reconnected via Facebook. (I love facebook, I must admit.) Mr. Brown was my 8th grade English teacher and Mrs. Brown my 4th grade teacher. (And yes, I have a terrible time calling them by their first names now…old habits die hard. Can you relate?) Together they are going to edit/make suggestions/and aid me in this process.  I asked them if they were willing for me to include this paragraph…but I didn’t tell them I was going to say this: Mrs. Brown was my favorite teacher EVER…and I went to four years of college and three years of grad school…so that makes for a lot of teachers over the years!  How fun is it for me to be working with her now, all these years later, as an adult?  I really am thrilled to have them both on my side!  They’ve written two books themselves, so they know what they’re talking about.  Yes, everything is coming together!!

And so I’m entering the phase of book-writing that I’ve feared and dreaded for years. The phase that has kept me from ever seriously attempting a book before. I’m putting on my thick skin. I’m asking my husband to dedicate some of his hard-earned engineer money to this, and I’m diving into the deep end. And I can’t even swim. But, hopefully, the fact that I’ve edited my brains out will be a life-raft.

Oh, and not to be obnoxious, but if you subscribe to this blog, perhaps my future publisher will be impressed by how many people want to read what I write! THANKS!

Tuesdays With Gretchen

24 May

So…mark your calendars now because this is the first installment of many which I’m hoping you’ll look forward to with at least a small degree of anticipation!  Tuesdays with Gretchen.  That’s what I want you to remember.  It’s too bad, really, that my name doesn’t begin with a “T”…or that a day of the week doesn’t begin with “G”.  I could have called it Tuesdays with Trudy.  That has a ring to it.  When I was small, my sister called me  – among a wide variety of nick names – “Trudy Myra”.  Not sure why, you’d have to ask her.  So I could, I suppose, call this Tuesdays with Trudy…but then, no one would know who the heck I was talking about so I guess Tuesdays With Gretchen it will be.

Have I said it often enough yet for you to remember?!!  TUESDAYS WITH GRETCHEN!

So…now you know how often and when I intend to post on my blog!  Yes.  That would be Tuesdays.  Why Tuesday?  I met a girl once, who met a girl, whose name was Tuesday.  I always thought it was a kinda cool name.  Not that I named any of my children “Tuesday”.  I’m married to a die-hard Mid-western guy.  “Tuesday” is way too out there for him.  I was all for “Finnley” for our third child…but yeah, that didn’t go over too well, either.  Especially since she turned out to be a girl.  So I had to use it for one of my character’s names. 

What character am I talking about?  More on that another day.  Another TUESDAY.

It’s possible that I’ll have epiphanies on days other than Tuesday.  And I may be compelled to write about those.  Either that or I’ll store them all up for a month of Tuesdays.  So don’t be surprised if there’s an occasional non-Tuesday post.  As a matter of fact, you can always read anything I post on any given day…even on a Wednesday!  All this to say, I’d love you to stop by as often as you’d like.   If I ever figure out how to post pictures properly, I might even post them on a Friday…just to keep you on your toes.

Okay, so now you know when…I suppose you’re wondering what.  Well, I think I’ve covered that in my “about”…which I believe is located on your upper right hand side and titled, “Where I’m Coming From”…look there to see what I’ll be writing about.  ‘Course, who knows what epiphanies I’ll be having, so who knows what will show up…but those are my basic parameters.  Those are where I’m being led.  Compelled, as it were. 

I really hope you’ll join me on my journey.

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