Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Exclusive interview with Jody Matzer, actor in Lizzie the film!


Actor Jody Matzer, left, plays Deputy Fleet, right. Nailed the mustache!

Actor Jody Matzer is charming, humble, and energetically devoted to his career. Recently he landed a role in the movie LIZZIE with iconic indie goddesses Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny.

He plays an 1892 police officer—Deputy Fleet— investigating events at the Borden residence. Possibly that includes (who knows?) looking into the dual hatchet murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, a true crime that took place in Fall River, Massachusetts. Chloë Sevigny plays Lizzie Borden, Andrew's daughter who was accused of the murders, while Stewart plays the Irish maid Bridget Sullivan, the only other person in the murder house that day besides the victims and Lizzie. 

The real Lizzie Borden, left, and Chloe Sevigny, right



The film debuted at Sundance this year and got snapped up for distribution by Roadside Attractions and Saban Films. It airs in a limited theatrical release with Landmark cinemas on Sept. 14: that's next Friday! 

I interviewed Matzer and learned more about the fascinating cold case file (Borden was acquitted) as well as insider information on what it's like to work with Stewart and Sevigny. 

Kirsten Stewart, left, plays Bridget Sullivan, right. Stewart has a little more "it girl" quality.
Q: What was it like working with luminaries like Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny?
Matzer: In a word…intimidating. I have to start by saying that when I walked onto set in Savannah I was immediately impressed by how welcomed everyone made me feel. Such good vibes! Then the reality of where I was and what I was about to do hit me. Nothing can prepare you to walk onto set with the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Kim Dickens, Fiona Shaw and Jamey Sheridan.

Kim Dickens, left, as Lizzie's sister Emma, right, who was conveniently away from
home when murders occurred...


Matzer: My first day on set—my one and only scene—and I would be acting with these talented, seasoned pro’s! I was excited, nervous and struggled to find the eye within my hurricane of emotions. Luckily the cast was extremely gracious and patient as I found my footing.
          Fiona Shaw, who is just, simply put, one of the kindest people I’ve ever
met, on set or off, was genuinely interested in me as an actor and person
and we spent the morning chatting about the business and life. 

Fiona Shaw, right, plays the unlucky Abby Borden, left. You also know her as Harry Potter's aunt!


Matzer: Director Craig Macneill and I were speaking after the premier of Lizzie at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Craig asked how I was able to just walk onto that set and keep it together. He told me he was impressed I just came in prepared and nailed my scene. "If there were nerves," he added, "we didn’t see any."
          To that I would say, as an actor, you take that energy, all your nerves and
anxiety and fear and you use it to your advantage. Even though my character, Deputy Fleet, isn’t nervous or anxious in the context of the scene, I used my nerves to give him a stillness. It’s the energy Craig wanted from me as Fleet. He wanted my size (I’m 6’2") and quiet to speak volumes. So, in the end, it all came together. 

Jamey Sheridan, right, as ill-fated Andrew Borden, left.


Matzer: And let me say this, because I know people are eager to know. In regards to Kristen Stewart: she is professional, talented and kind. She walked right up to me, offered me her hand, smiled and introduced herself. She was shy but like the other members of the cast, welcoming and professional. Short answer? Don’t believe everything you read in the press.

Q: Had you heard of Lizzie Borden before being cast in this movie? Do you have a sense of the real life woman's guilt or innocence?
Matzer: I am a history buff as well as a fan of movies or television shows which have forensics science and criminology as a backdrop. I had certainly heard of Lizzie Borden and knew the story. In regards to Lizzie’s innocence or guilt, I think screenwriter Bryce Kass said it perfectly. When asked during the Q&A after the Sundance screening, if it was difficult to balance history and storytelling, Bryce said (and I’m paraphrasing here): "We have the courtroom transcripts from Lizzie’s trial. Every single one. She had a very dry, sarcastic sense of humor. So we have a pretty good sense of who she was through her words. We also know exactly what happened in the courtroom. What we don’t know…what nobody knows…is what really happened inside that house. That was the springboard for our narrative."

Bridget texts for help with laundry, cooking, & bloodstain removal


Matzer: I think the story/theory presented in Lizzie is extremely plausible. Suffice to say, it was a horrible, brutal crime. What would push someone to kill their parents in such a gruesome violent manner? It’s a fascinating subject.
          My theory? I think Lizzie Borden killed her parents. I think there was a
number of factors at play, including a compromised mental state, as well as
abuse.

Q: What the most surprising thing that happened on set?
Matzer: I am a professional actor. When cast in a project, I take my responsibilities seriously. I like to think I am thoughtful and respectful. I do the job and then I go home at the end of the day. My then agent had reminded me to be the actor I always am, the actor directors want to work with more than once. She told me to do what I always do: show up and do the job well.
          I don’t ask fellow actors for autographs or photographs. I give them their space just as I would want someone to give me mine.
          So when I walked onto the Lizzie set the first time, I was taken to my little dressing room. Wardrobe dropped off my costume. I had my sides (my script) and I was prepared to just sit in the quiet little room (one in a row of many) and study and prepare. I wasn’t going to venture out and explore or see who I could see. That’s just not how I operate.
          Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. I answered it.
          It was Fiona Shaw. She shook my hand and welcome me to set. So very kind. We chatted and then she left me to prepare, saying she’d see me on set.
          I sat back down and started going over my sides. There was another knock on the door. I opened it. It was Kim Dickens. We shared a similar conversation as Fiona and I had just minutes earlier. Kim left, saying, "See you on set."
          I sat back down. A minute or two later, there was a knock on the door. I opened it. It was Chloë Sevigny. We chatted. She said, "See you on set," and then left.
          It still brings a smile to my face. These marvelous, powerhouse actors
making a total stranger feel so absolutely welcomed onto set.
          Later, I was asked if I had been good. I simply smiled and replied: I didn’t bother anyone and stayed in my dressing room. 

Jay Huguley, left, plays attorney William Henry Moody, who asked a lot of probing questions
of Lizzie in the courtroom


Q: I'd love to hear about your audition process.
Matzer: It was pretty straightforward. The project was listed on a casting website. My then agent submitted my resume and headshot to the casting director. I was then offered an opportunity to audition. I did as much research as I could in that short period of time. I taped two different versions of the scene and they were sent to the casting director. There were no callbacks. My agent called a few weeks later telling me I’d been cast as Deputy Fleet.

Q: What do you think about how the police force of 1892 handled things?
Matzer: It was the 1890s. I think from a technical/forensic aspect, they did as much as they could. Their scientific hands, metaphorically speaking, to my understanding, were tied. Lizzie was the only person charged. I think that speaks volumes to how much they could do and how much they wanted to do.

Jay Huguley with a little light reading


Q: What did you do to prepare for this role?
Matzer: It must be said the character as presented in Lizzie is different from the real man. I of course researched what I could on Deputy Fleet. I first wanted to see what Deputy Fleet looked like. This is a quick superficial, vanity thing, though. As an actor you move past this curiosity and dig deeper and try to find any clue as to who the person you’re playing really was. I feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to portraying someone who was real. At some point, though, I had to blend what was known historically about Fleet and then find those traits we shared—the truth which lies between us. That’s my job as an actor.
          How do you do that when there are no audio or video references? That was the challenge presented to me. There are none. In the end, I finally decided he was an officer of the law. He was a man who was concerned about wrong or right. I had to keep things in perspective. This movie was not The Deputy Fleet Story.
          I only needed to consider the broad strokes of who this man was and what I decided was that he was no-nonsense, serious, practical and suspicious.
          From there, I let Craig’s direction, Kristen’s performance and Bryce’s dialogue guide me. Craig and Bryce both told me they were very happy with my performance as Deputy Fleet. I did my job. I’m very proud.
          In closing, I must say, Lizzie is going to blow people away. Chloë is brilliant as Lizzie. Hers is a raw, heartbreaking, tour de force performance. The entire cast is just amazing. I’m truly blessed to be part of it, even if in a small capacity. Lizzie is jarring, violent, touching and tragic. There are moments which will move you and horrify you. Lizzie is a gorgeous film thanks to the cinematography of Noah Greenberg. Jeff Russo’s soundtrack is a perfect complement to the story and imagery. His themes are unsettling and broken and mirror the tragic broken mind of the film’s center character.

  • Want to know more about Matzer? His website is http://www.jematzeractor.com/. He tweets as @MATZER_fella_64 and is on Insta as @Matzeractor.
  • Want to know more about the movie Lizzie, like watching the trailer and finding out if it's showing near you? Click here http://bit.ly/2PIwhtT and then at the top click on "Change region/adjust theater."
  • Want to know more about the character Kristen Stewart plays, the Irish maid who was there that day? My novel The Murderer's Maid tells the whole story from her point of view, along with a modern-day narrative about a woman who discovers her own strange connection to the case. [Disclaimer: my book has nothing to do with the movie, other than being another rare case of Bridget Sullivan getting some attention and credibility.] Check it out here:




“Erika Mailman writes a page turner of a thriller that will fascinate as well as terrify….Don’t read this at night; it will give you nightmares.” -New York Journal of Books
“Erika Mailman’s kaleidoscopic narrative melds true crime, historical fiction, and elements of a psychological thriller, all hinging on a singular question: ‘Who isn’t a survivor from the wreckage of childhood?’” -Foreword Reviews
“A complex and riveting parallax view of domestic crimes, decades apart.” -Kirkus
“Those interested in the Lizzie Borden tale…will appreciate Mailman’s research and be rewarded with this new perspective.” -Booklist

Follow me on Twitter @ErikaMailman or on Instagram @ErikaMailman.

Finally, I've blogged a lot about the case. Click below!



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Thursday, August 02, 2018

More on Bridget Sullivan's grave

Me connecting with Bridget
Raise your hand: how many of you visit cemeteries on your road trips?  When one of my children found out the incredible coincidence that my novel's real-life character Bridget Sullivan's grave was in the small town we'd be visiting, she said—and I quote— "Here we go again."

Anaconda, Montana, has a population of about 9,000, the same as the Vermont town I grew up in. It was founded by Copper King Marcus Daly in 1883; he tried to call it Copperopolis (which is really fun to say) but the name was already taken. Bridget Sullivan—Lizzie Borden's maid— is listed on Wikipedia as one of 25 notable people who lived there. Bridget settled here sometime after the 1892 murders in Massachusetts; intriguingly, no one knows what happened to her for an intervening period of years before she wound up in Montana. Perhaps she went back to Ireland for a bit? That's definitely a happy thing to consider.

See the preceding post for a little bit about the uncanny nature of learning I'd be visiting Anaconda.

The east-west streets in Anaconda are named for charmingly named for trees, but not alphabetized. Tucked in there between Oak and Hickory is Main Street, and at the end of it is a stunning county courthouse.

Anaconda courthouse
 
Check out that eagle of justice!


I sometimes like to think I have intuition about things and I just felt like the cemetery must be near. Sure enough, to the right of the courthouse we spied a little curving road up into the hillside. Jackpot!
We had a decision to make: choose between the upper cemetery or the lower. We chose upper, parked the car and started walking. There were four of us, and we fanned out to better seize upon Bridget.

View of Anaconda from upper cemetery


There were some incredible markers there, like this one that has tree limbs "falling off" in a beautifully stylized manner.



We quickly found some Sullivans, but not a Bridget.

Then, one of my children called excitedly from a few rows away. She had indeed found a Bridget Sullivan, but someone whose birth date was about twenty years off (even given that it's not fixed in stone—ha ha—when Bridget was born, but she claimed to be 26 years old at the time of the 1893 trial). So we kept plugging. It was a hot day. I decided it was time to call it quits, that I'd go to a local establishment where I could pick up wifi, check the website findagrave.com, and then go straight to Bridget. (My cell carrier gave zero service in Montana).

My laptop malfunctioned and I couldn't get wifi on it, but I did pick up the wifi in my phone...for all of ten minutes before it died. I had been left at the wifi place for an hour while the rest of my family went for ice cream, so I spent some time cursing my luck; I couldn't call them to return earlier! I was over-air conditioned and shivering, went outside and boiled. Am I complaining enough yet? Luckily, those ten minutes of scant wifi did let me ascertain that the whole time we'd been plugging through that cemetery near the courthouse, we were in the WRONG CEMETERY.

So much for intuition!

When the family picked me up, I directed us straight to Mount Olivet Cemetery, which was small enough that we could troll the paths in our car. Even better, I had seen a picture of the gravestone so could describe what we were looking for. We found it pretty quickly.

I loved it that Bridget was up on the hillside. Here's her view of the town (you can see that smelting chimney in the distance). I'm glad she found love, that she had a husband beside her in the ground. And I thoroughly believe she must've loved the wild landscape of Montana, its breathtaking mountains...she traded a busy river town for a remote area where you rotate 360 degrees and see nothing but mountains. Montana is gorgeous.

What Bridget "sees" from her grave. See the smelting tower at the upper right.

A writer friend Genevieve Beltran joked that I dig deep as a writer...six feet down. It's true that it was moving for me to see Bridget Sullivan's grave. Although reports from her relatives are that she was stern and had no sense of humor, I hope that she did find peace.

Rest in peace, Bridget Sullivan.

Bridget and John's grave in the foreground

If you want to know more about Bridget, my novel The Murderer's Maid tells the Lizzie Borden story from her point of view.



“Erika Mailman writes a page turner of a thriller that will fascinate as well as terrify….Don’t read this at night; it will give you nightmares.” -New York Journal of Books
“Erika Mailman’s kaleidoscopic narrative melds true crime, historical fiction, and elements of a psychological thriller, all hinging on a singular question: ‘Who isn’t a survivor from the wreckage of childhood?’” -Foreword Reviews
“A complex and riveting parallax view of domestic crimes, decades apart.” -Kirkus
“Those interested in the Lizzie Borden tale…will appreciate Mailman’s research and be rewarded with this new perspective.” -Booklist


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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bridget Sullivan's grave




My experience of the Lizzie Borden story is through a somewhat different lens than most people; I view it through the eyes of Bridget Sullivan. She was the Irish immigrant maid employed by the Borden family a few years before the murders took place. It is said she tried to quit several times, but Mrs. Borden always talked her into staying. Bridget was at the house the day that Mr. and Mrs. Borden were slain by hatchet, Aug. 4, 1892. The only other person we know was there that day was Lizzie, who underwent trial for her father and stepmother's deaths, and was acquitted. My novel The Murderer's Maid tells the story of these iconic American murders from Bridget’s point of view.

I’m a writer whose had a significant amount of uncanny things happen through her writing. One was writing a novel about witchcraft and then learning my ancestor had undergone witchcraft trials several times. More recently, after my book about Bridget Sullivan came out, my husband’s brother invited us to visit him at his cabin in Montana. What town in Montana?

Oh, it just happens to be the same small town in Montana that Bridget Sullivan settled in, after a hiatus of years in which her trail went temporarily cold. The town is Anaconda.

I had a rare chance last week to visit the grave of my character. She is buried next to her husband John Sullivan (he already had that very common Irish last name, so she didn’t need to change hers, although I guess she could’ve called herself Bridget Sullivan Sullivan). Her side of the shared grave is higher than his, and I fancifully imagined it was her bulky shirts and petticoats causing the difference. Someone had left bouquets of colorful fake flowers on both their graves.

Bridget is on a hill overlooking the town of Anaconda, with a lovely view. She can also see the tower which I think is a smelting tower where her husband would’ve worked. I ran out of time to do that research on this trip, but I hope to return. I’d also really love to connect with Bridget’s great-niece who lives in a nearby town.

So here, a few days before the 126th anniversary of the murders, is a photo of Bridget Sullivan's grave at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Anaconda, Montana. Next post: more about the search for Bridget's grave (hint: it wasn't easy, although it should've been).



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Saturday, June 02, 2018

Where will I be in June? Fall River, Massachusetts!

At left, librarian Kate Kulpa invited me to come talk about The Murderer's Maid


I'll be doing a free Powerpoint and book talk at the Fall River Public Library 7 p.m. on June 7. Learn more about Lizzie Borden's Irish maid Bridget Sullivan and the events of a horrible day in 1892.

Lizzie Borden took an ax,
Gave her mother 40 whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father 41.

I'll be talking about that, how much Bridget Sullivan might've known or seen--and how interesting it was both to invent a personality for this little-known historical personage, and to create a modern-day storyline that connects back to the past.

I hope you can join me there. Village Partners Bookshop will be on hand to sell copies I'll be happy to sign.

Deborah Allard Dion and Linda Murphy each wrote great articles previewing the event:
http://www.heraldnews.com/news/20180525/meet-author-of-the-murderers-maid-lizzie-borden-novel
http://www.heraldnews.com/entertainment/20180601/dive-into-good-book-or-few-this-summer

Thank you both so much! And thank you to Kate Kulpa for inviting me to the Fall River Library!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

IPPY Awards win!

Note that cool yellow thing in the upper right. It's new!

I found out last week that The Murderer's Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel won a gold medal in historical fiction from the IPPY Awards. This award series is for independent publishing: small presses like Bonhomie/Yellow Pear Press (who published my novel), university presses and self-publishing. It's truly an honor and it was really exciting to actually win something!

And I note that there is a really nice space near the title where the gold medallion fits in so nicely.

Thanks to the IPPY folks, and to Yellow Pear Press for entering my book.








We went out to dinner to celebrate and I forgot to order a margarita! Ah well...my Arnold Palmer was very satisfactory. ;)

I have a good handful of upcoming events to share. Some free, some not. Some for readers, some for writers. Most in California, but ONE IN MASSACHUSETTS... in fact, in Fall River, where Lizzie Borden lived. If you're an east coaster, clear your calendar for June 7.

Upcoming events:


Saturday, April 28, 2018: Two presentations at Butte College’s WordSpring Creative Writing Conference: “From Murder to Manuscript” and a session on writing young adult fiction. All day event in Oroville with many workshops includes light breakfast and buffet lunch, $75 ($45 for Butte College students). Space still available; visit https://buttewordspring.org/

Saturday, April 28, 2018: Walnut Creek Library Association’s Wonderland Author’s Gala: Cocktail party and dinner with many authors. Tickets go on sale in March; visit http://www.wclibrary.org/gala/

May 4-6, 2018: Gold Rush Writers Conference, Mokelumne Hill, CA. I’ll be presenting on theme in the novel and moderating a panel on publishing. This weekend-long event is stocked with workshops, wonderful food, friendly writers. If you can’t spend the entire weekend ($195), you can come up for the dinner and keynote speech by Booker Award finalist Karen Joy Fowler, $35. You can also dip into individual presentations for $35 each. For details, visit http://www.goldrushwriters.com/

9-11 a.m., June 1, 2018: Presentation to the California Writers Club on how to balance social media time with writing time, Coco’s Restaurant, 7887 Madison Blvd (at Sunrise Boulevard)., Citrus Heights, CA. Free event and open to public; attendees buy their own breakfast. http://www.cwcsacramentowriters.org/monthly-meetings/

7 p.m., June 7, 2018: Presentation at the Fall River Public Library, 104 N. Main St., Fall River, Massachusetts. Free. I’ll present on Lizzie Borden, Bridget Sullivan and my novel. Pretty excited to do an event in the city where the murders took place; this knowledgeable crowd will keep me on my toes. http://fallriverlibrary.org/






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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Frankenstein's Maker



Two hundred years ago, the novel Frankenstein was published.

Its author was Mary Shelley, at the time living under the shadow of her famous poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. She was also the child of the forerunner of the women's liberation movement, Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792 (it is said Jane Austen read this and it influenced her portrayal of strong female characters).

Mary Shelley's life was almost impossibly dramatic and tragic, the kind that makes you say the truth is stranger than fiction. She married Shelley after his first wife committed suicide, he turned his extramarital attentions to her half-sister, she suffered incredible losses with her children and then Shelley.

As immortalized in the 1986 movie Gothic, Mary was part of a literary ghost-telling evening with her husband and Byron. Her nightmare that night led to the first pages of Frankenstein.

My intent in writing this blog post is to talk about a historical novel that tells Mary's story, from her girlhood to the end. From making love on her mother's grave to her husband's drowning death to her own burial with the exhumed bodies of her parents, this novel covers it all in beautiful prose and with an empathetic heart for Mary's brilliance throughout her woes. The book is New York Times bestselling author Antoinette May's The Determined Heart.

I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it. Now's the perfect time to read it and contemplate the life of this extraordinary author of 200 years ago, Mary Shelley.

Fun fact: It is only through Antoinette that I know Bysshe is pronounced "bish." Looks more posh than it sounds.

Antoinette is the founder of a writing conference now going into its 13th year, the Gold Rush Writers Conference. There are still spots available; one of the keynote speakers this year is Karen Joy Fowler, author of the Booker finalist We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves and the popular Jane Austen Book Club (see? I got to mention Jane twice in this post! Happy me). The other keynote speaker is Ace Antonio Hall.

The conference takes place May 4, 5 and 6 in Mokelumne Hill, California, truly Gold Rush country. I'll be presenting on "Balancing Plot and Theme: How to Make a Novel Resonate." This conference is focused only on the craft of writing in all forms (poetry, screenwriting, nonfiction, fiction) without the sometimes stressful addition of agents and editors. If you want to truly write, meet other friendly folks and relax (as much as one can relax in a haunted hotel), this is the conference for you. Visit this site for more information.

And don't forget to check out The Determined Heart!


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Monday, March 19, 2018

8th annual National Chin Up for Writers Day



Seven years ago, I designated March 19 as National Chin Up for Writers Day. Each year on this holiday I've written an update post. This year I'm trying something new ... er, old. I've recently been introduced to the term "evergreen" in terms of posts that are always relevant. I'm going to recycle this evergreen post, and in 2019 I'll write a fresh one. So here we go!

I originally wrote this post as an email to a Facebook acquaintance, who was clearly getting depressed about his inability to find a traditional publisher for his novel, but as it lengthened I thought it'd be worth posting here. I remember those dark days myself very clearly, and my heart goes out to anyone in this situation--because getting a novel published isn’t just something that would be cool for us; it’s something that validates how we see ourselves. I remember that before traditional publication, if I met someone new and identified myself as a writer, they’d invariably ask, “So have you published anything?” and I'd have to embark on the Road to Apologia, why this is, and how hard I've tried, and I came close with that one agent, and I attended that conference and had a nice talk with that publisher, and how I keep trying and I…

Yes, it sucks.

So I’m appointing today National Keep Your Chin Up Day for Writers. I have a few thoughts to share that hopefully will serve as a bit of a pep talk.

1. Nearly every published writer I know (myself included) had about six novels under the bed when they finally got that offer. Count up your own manuscripts: two? Three? You may need to keep churning them out, because with each novel your craft improves. Writing is mysterious, and I do believe in innate talent, but as with everything single thing in this life, we get better with practice. So keep practicing. It occurs to me that this bit of cheer may backfire, that a writer may say, “I can’t keep doing this to myself! I just finished my third book, and that’s IT. You’re telling me I have to write three more?!” Someone who really cares about their career will nod philosophically and take the long view that it’s worth it to keep working, keep improving, and finally get a publication contract for a book that’s your best effort.

And after all, you can’t force a book to sell. You can revise based on editorial feedback, you can try again; you can try multiple times! But at some point, you have to cut your losses and start the next project. Soon, the joy of creating a new world within your novel will ease your feelings of feeling frantic about the previous book. And with what you learned from the new novel, you may wish to launch another revision on the old. But at least you’ll have another fresher, better book to try to publish.

2. Joining a writers group really helps with the emotions of being unpublished. Kvetching together, sharing the anticipations as queries go out, consoling each other when rejections happen, cheering each other on to try again: that’s something that non-writers can’t really offer. They don’t “get” what’s so important about being published. The other thing about joining a writers group is that suddenly the idea of being a writer becomes more real. It’s one thing to type away in your home, but when you’re sharing your work with other writers, equally serious about their craft as you, your idea of yourself as an author gains more weight, validity. It will seem more possible that you can do this successfully. I heartily recommend finding a real-person writers group, but online works too.

3. Keep reading books you love. It’s not escapism, it’s not a reason not to write. It’s research--because every single sentence you imbibe resides in you. The more you read, the more those different ways of constructing a sentence moil around in your head. You give your brain more options. You are tutoring yourself subconsciously. 4. “It only takes one person to say yes.” I’m sure you’ve heard that dozens of times, but it’s so true in the publishing industry. It doesn’t matter that 50 agents sent you form rejections, if one says, “I love it!” Your onus is to find the person most likely to say yes. Like I said in #3, keep reading…and when you find a book that’s similar to yours in tone or aesthetic, look at the Acknowledgments section to see if the author thanked their agent. That’s a good person to send a query to. Another good tactic is to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace (you can do it for $20 for one month, jam through the archives, and cancel, if money is an issue): you can see what’s selling right now to editors, and which agents are doing that selling.

See an agent’s name several times, linked with books that are similar to yours? That’s another good person to target. You can also look through those thick tomes of agent directories (or better yet, www.agentquery.com), but that doesn’t give you a feel for what the agent likes. Just knowing they represent historical fiction, for instance, doesn’t necessarily mean that they like books set in Colonial America. Look at the agent’s website and rifle through their client list. Can you get a sense of the agent’s personality through the books he/she has chosen to represent?

Keep your chin up. There’s a part of this process you can control, and you should: the rest of it is out of your hands. The best thing you can do is move to the next project, and let the current novel marinate. Mark your calendar for six months from now, and re-read it.

Is that chin in the air yet? Higher! Like Cora in Downton Abbey, let me see that plastic surgery scar! I offer you an e-hug and a rueful e-smile, because I’ve been there. Believe me, I’ve really, really been there… and I hope the Gods of Publishing will soon smile on you and your novel.

If you'd like to read the previous years' posts on Keep Your Chin Up Day:

Second year
Third year


Sixth year: As I look for it to link to, I am just now realizing I forgot to do it last year! Oh dear. Rats!


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