April 14, 2014

Made It Moment: Rita Plush

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:54 pm

Lily Steps Out
Rita Plush describes something below that I think almost any emerging writer can relate to wanting to do. Only Rita Plush did it. Worked up her nerve and…really did it. With surprising effects–ones I would never have anticipated, especially in the particular scenario you’re just about to read. And it became Rita’s path to making it. What do you think? Would you have the nerve? And in the end–what do we really have to lose, when the gain just might be a Moment?

Rita Plush

Back in the summer of 2004, after reading that Joyce Carol Oates was giving an author talk at a local library, I decided to print out the first chapter of my novel, Lily Steps Out (Penumbra Publishing 2012), enclose it in a SASE and bring it to the reading.

She’ll say NO? She’ll say NO. Nothing ventured. Nothing gained.

Off the library I went and sat through her talk, clutching my offering with sweaty hands and a pounding heart, and all the while instructing myself, DO IT! DO IT!.

Full disclosure, I was starting to chicken-out. Her presentation over, I queued up to buy her book and ask her, beg if necessary, to read my chapter. My turn came. She autographed my book. I mustered all my courage.

“Ms. Oates,” I said, “I’m a writer too and I’ve written a novel. It would mean so much to me if you would read the first chapter.”

“Oh, I can’t,” she said. “People ask me all the time. I just don’t have the time.”

“Ms. Oates,” I said. “You’re like a movie star to me.” (This is true.) “I’ve read almost all of your novels and your collections of short stories more than once.”

I could sense the impatience of the crowd behind me waiting their turn. Move it lady, someone muttered behind me, but lady didn’t move. Lady stood there citing short stories Oates had written years and years before, until finally, I heard, “Send it to me at Princeton.” Words from heaven. I flew home, called the college, got her address and ran to the post office.

About a month or so later I received this typewritten postcard:

Sept. 17. 2004
9 Honey Brook Drive
Princeton, New Jersey 08540

Dear Rita Plush,

Your story is very engagingly written. The voice is shrewd, sharp, funny, and yet tender. Perhaps the theme of the “Middle-aged housewife who becomes impatient with her life” is somewhat familiar, so it’s difficult to make such material distinction. Still this is promising, and might well make a readable and marketable novel. Good luck!

Joyce Carol Oates

I couldn’t believe it! But there it was, from her brilliant fingertips —Joyce Carol Oates, the esteemed, prolific—she has her own Book of the Month Club, and why shouldn’t she? the woman writes a book a month—the most fabulous of the fabulous, whose books I loved, whose short stories I swooned over—Joyce Carol Oates liked my chapter. She thought it PROMISING! If something could be worn out by looking at it, that postcard would be dust today.

When I knew my book was to be published, I scanned the post card onto a letter asking Ms. Oates if I could use the quote on the cover. A few weeks later I received the reply, “Of course you can. Good luck!”

And there it reads on the cover of Lily Steps Out:

“…engagingly written. The voice is shrewd, sharp, funny, and yet tender.”

My Made It Moment… brought to me by Joyce Carol Oates.

Rita Plush is an author, teacher and lecturer on the decorative arts. She is the facilitator of the Self-published Authors’ Roundtable that meets every month at the Manhasset Library in Manhasset, LI. Rita presented her talk, “Writing & Publishing in the Modern Age, or So You’ve Written a Book; Now What?” at the Limmud Conference of Jewish Learning in February, 2014. During her thirty-five years as an interior designer, Rita was the coordinator of the Interior Design/Decorating Certificate Program at Queensborough Community College and taught several courses in the program.

April 8, 2014

Made It Moment: Cathi Stoler

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:48 am

Keeping Secrets

In many ways, writing is a leap into the abyss, and a study in audacity. I mean, come on. What allows little old us to think that by dint of sheer slashes and dots on a page, we can entice a reader to enter a world we have completely made up? Yet it happens. Time and time again, a little bit of magic in our everyday life. The ability to do this thing is a mystery–at least to me–but what certain writers have the ability to drill down to is how we find the faith to try and do it. To think that we can write a book. Cathi Stoler knows exactly what led her to dare such a feat, and it became her Made It Moment.

Cathi Stoler

My “Made It Moment” came sitting at desk in an adult education course at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. The course, entitled “How To Overcome Your Fear of Writing Your Novel”, had gotten my attention when I read the description in the school’s brochure and I convinced myself now was the right time to pursue a dream I’d had for many years.

I’d been a voracious reader since I was a very little girl and had read every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys story I could get my hands on. As I grew older, I graduated to Ian Fleming, Sue Grafton, Joy Fielding, James Patterson, Michael Connolly and many other mystery/suspense writers, always wondering if maybe I could write a book of my own.

In my day job, I was already a writer—an advertising copywriter with many years of experience with award winning work for well-known brands. But, I realized that writing a :30 second TV commercial was a whole lot different than writing a 70,000+ word book. I didn’t know if I had it in me or if what I’d write would be any good.

So, I got my courage up and enrolled in the course. Our instructor, Alyson Richman, a wonderful writer of historical fiction, gave us an assignment each week. She’d read the work at home and pick a few pieces to share with us at the next session and class members would critique them. When she chose the first chapter of my novel to read, I told myself this was it: if it didn’t go well–if they hated it–I’d forget about writing a mystery and stick with reading them instead.

Fortunately, my classmates liked the work very much and wanted to see more. And while I know that the class’ opinion probably shouldn’t have mattered that much, it did. It gave me the encouragement to go on and complete my first novel, and since then, several others. I look back on that class and my fellow writers, two of whom became good friends and writing group cohorts, and know I would never have gotten this far without them.

Cathi Stoler’s mysteries feature P.I. Helen McCorkendale and magazine editor, Laurel Imperiole. Her first, Telling Lies, takes on the subject of stolen Nazi art. Other books in the series include, Keeping Secrets, which delves into the subject of hidden identity and The Hard Way, a story of International diamond theft. She has also published a novella, Nick of Time, and several short stories including Magda, in Criminal Element’s Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble and Out of Luck, featured in the Sisters in Crime Anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. Her story, Fatal Flaw, published at Beat to A Pulp was a finalist for the Derringer for Best Short Story. Cathi is a member of Mystery Writers of America, as well as Sisters in Crime and posts at the womenofmystery.net blog.

Powered by WordPress