Category Archives: agent

Genre Crisis: “New Adult” Label

a_4x-horizontalNobody likes to be put into categories, most of all writers. But categories—or in the world of books, genres—are very helpful for marketing and selling a book. When querying publishing firms and literary agents, one must identify their genre, which helps the editors and agents decide whether the project will fall into their areas of interest. But recently, I’ve had an extremely difficult time placing my novel in a genre, which should be a good thing because agents seek works that cross several genres, except it seriously curtails one’s ability to market himself.

I could easily make up my own genre: Southern comedy transgressive? Meta-cultural southern teen exploration? Young adult, but not that young, but maybe still in their twenties who like funny but also serious writing?

The problem is, if the agent doesn’t recognize the genre, then she or he cannot place it right? I tried literary, but that

dasfasf

can’t just say that: you need a better phrase.

brand is too broad. While my project has literary elements, it certainly could be explained more descriptively. I tried young adult, but this generally means the books is marketed for teens ages 12-15. My novel is marketed toward older teens and 20-somethings. It, like many New Adult novels, tracks the growth and development of young adults whose identities are forming, who are seriously changing.

So maybe your book is a noir space opera western with thriller-paced plotting, literary aesthetic, and occult elements? Well, you need a better way to say that, a shorter way.

As I’ve been e-mailing literary agents, literary magazines, and publishers, this question has plagued me constantly. Finally I found an age-group description “New Adult” with which to market the novel THE HEATHENS AND LIARS OF LICKSKILLET COUNTY. “New Adult” bridges the gap between the safe and young group of Young Adult (YA) readers and Adult fiction. But because my books deals with characters in between, I think this genre (a relatively new invention of words) is fitting.

Querying agents has so far not worked out, but I am still sending many, many emails all over the country (and the world!) to publish this novel, as well as poems and short stories.

Have you had trouble labeling a piece of work? What genre did you settle on?

Where the hell has Derek Berry been? (A Definitive Guide)

We're not out of the doghouse yet!

We’re not out of the doghouse yet!

By the looks of this blog Word Salad, I either died or was captured by Russian spies, but I am still alive and kicking, only with considerably less free time than I would like to have. Generally, the little I do have I contribute to professional projects rather than penning funny, sad, and weird columns for this blog. My output, however, has been tremendous, and I want to share with you some answers to the question posed in the title.

I have been churning out thousands of words  a week, no doubt. One class I have enrolled in this semester requires at least one, sometimes 3, papers each week, as well as a book a week. Even for such a prodigious reader and writer as me, this class has taken a toll on me. It has also, however, taught me a lot and made me think about elements of politics I have never before considered. The semester is winding down (or rather accelerating toward the brick wall Dead  End named Finals), and I am looking forward to a summer of fun, excitement, and scholarly activities (SIKE!, says the nineties teenager).

Two writing projects currently are still in the works. After months of sending query letters, I have received interesting critical feedback on my novel The Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County. Firstly, not many people feel comfortable reading about the Ku Klux Klan, even a comical modern version of it, and after extensive research, I have decided that I too find it distasteful. I expected to find a group of confused southerners emphasizing southern heritage, but mostly the organization is still quite racist (no surprise there). This couple with other problems have spurred me to begin working on other projects while seriously editing the book.

I ain’t no stranger to editing– most of a book’s life is spent in the dreaded editing stage, in my experience. Certainly, I won’t give up on the story, because it’s a story I find compelling: teenagers discovering themselves while encountering the pitfalls of adulthood in a small southern town. It’s a juiced-up, funny-as-hell, exaggerated version of my own experience and the experience of many of my friends. I spent nearly three or four months away from the manuscript and have now returned to engage in editing, and I’ll share some of my favorite passages:

“I had electric veins and ionic eyeballs. Like my heart was hooked up to a car battery, except the energy kept flowing the wrong way.”

” Some of the cities we lived in were actually less like modest hamlets and more true-to-the-core, redneck Nowhere’s. Towns where orthodontists went bankrupt on account of there being only so many teeth per capita.

The sorts of towns where no one had ever heard of smart phones or the Democratic Party or anal sex.”

“Boredom: our natural state, our default. For our entire teen lives in Lickskillet, boredom was true evil, our archenemies, the Darth Vader to our Luke Skywalker. We the free rebels fighting for sacred liberty from this, our mortal enemy we called “boredom.”

We tried everything to absolve ourselves from this carnal sin. Most drank heavily, even idiotically. Which was the best way to drink, with the high possibility of death. Most of the boys drank beer, challenging each other to gulp down more until all had passed out. Girls preferred liquor, mixed or straight. And then everyone, roaring drunk, would smash boredom against the walls. Would take off our boredom’s clothes or pass out on boredom’s lawn.”

Another project I have been vigorously working on (in the months Lickskillet lay dormant in my mind) is The Choke Artist, a story about bare-knuckle fighting, illegal immigration, obese hand models, Alabama lesbians, drug kingpins, murder, Walt Whitman, and time travel. Perhaps when I feel more comfortable with Lickskillet, I’ll post more information about this fascinating, bizarre work.

Essays, novels, and late-night scribbling have accounted for much of my weekly word count, but I have also re-delved into poetry. Last Wednesday, I came away from a school poetry slam, snagging first place. I won an incredibly awesome pen (made with wood from Ireland and GOLD), and it’s probably the best writing utensil I have ever owned in my life.  Perhaps I’ll post a picture up next week with a video of me performing the winning poems?

Now you know “Where the Hell” I went and what I’ve been doing. Check in again soon for further shenanigans.

Memoir: Insert Grandiose Subtitle Here (Part II)

{Part I}

My mother’s agent crossed her legs and smoothed her skirt, placing the manuscript delicately on the coffee table. “Georgina, it’s not even finished.” Mum nodded, folding her hands over her knee. “And– the murder scene at the end, it rings disturbingly similar to the finale in Black Tears, you know where the killer tries to drown Detective Knaus in a swimming pool. In this, you have the main character drowning in a Jacuzzi, and maybe there’s a fine distinction, but– look Georgina.”

Mum burped out a quick apology which faltered once it left her lips. “Angelina, please, look, I can tidy up the script. I’ll change the scene even. She’ll drown in the sea or a bathtub or a dunk tank at the carnival. I just can’t stop writing Catherine Knaus novels, Angie.”

“Yes, well, you can’t write them. Not anymore. You killed Knaus off in the final book, and didn’t I tell you not to? You could still be writing her character now. But no, you wanted to go for shock value. End of the series, hero has to end. And now where are you? Writing a bland replica of the same character with a different name. Georgie, I can’t even use this– it’s, it’s… it’s fine, but your comeback must be strong, soaring, magnificent. Not– this.” She tapped the manuscript and smiled with bared teeth. “Honestly? Rhonda Flame? That doesn’t belong in a Georgina Snyder novel; if you were writing erotica, though…”

I crept another step down, peering through the banister at where they sat below me. My father entered the room, brandishing a slightly taller stack of paper than my mother. “Angie, you want some tea? Nice to see you again after–“

“No tea, thanks. Your wife and I were just discussing–“

“You know who else finished a manuscript, Angie?”

Angie the editor shifted her glasses and waited a beat. “Am I supposed to guess?” Another moment of that silence adults share when social constructs fall apart. “You?”

“Me, yes me. As you’re my wife’s agent, I was hoping you’d take a look.”

“We’ve talked about this,” mum said, pushing my father’s manuscript back toward him, away from her own on the coffee table as if one might infect another. I imagined all the sheets of paper                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      spilling onto the floor, and when you rearranged the pieces, you got a literary journey of discovery and scandal intermixed with grungy noir gore.

“It’s a tale of a broken middle-aged man, in an existential clash with himself. He’s a writer, though he has not written anything for years– oh, the crisis, it’s sort of a metaphor for writer’s block, you see. He begins looking to make his life more interesting, takes up gambling, then begins an affair…”

“Mr. Snyder, I appreciate–“

“Better not be a fucking autobiography,” my mum muttered, finishing her wine in a grand, gulping swig.

“Mr. Snyder,” Angelina continued, “I think your writing is superb, but the idea of the book is hardly marketable. There’s nothing distinct that sets it apart, you understand?”

“Bet his wife catches him shagging one of his students on his office, and all she wanted to do was surprise him on his birthday.”

“He’s not a professor, Georgina. He’s a writer.”

“Listen, both of you. I really need to be leaving.” Angelina smiled again, her teeth on vicious display, taking steps toward the door. “Georgie, we signed a contract. At least finish something, change the hot tub scene, and– my boss wants to see it by next month.”

“Next month. The fourteenth then?”

“The first would be better, Georgie. They’re awfully particular about those contracts, and I mean, maybe after Catherine Knaus died, that was a sign. That your, well at least your career in crime novels–“

“My career?” My mother stood up, though clumsily, knocking her empty wine glass onto the floor as she crossed to Angelina. “Angie, Christmas is coming up, and we can’t even–” she lowered her voice “avoid presents. We’re going to have to pick and choose. Honestly, if Michael keeps breaking windows– January 1st will be too early. Can’t it wait until at least the second or third? You’ll be too hung-over– I mean, knackered– to read it.”

“The contract, though, states that our agency will represent you for the entire Catherine Knaus series, and after that ended, we gave you two years.”

“I can have it in a month. Two weeks from now, no problem. All I need is– some space, some coffee, a little inspiration.”

“Good. I’m glad we’re all in high spirits then. Send it to me in an e-mail, Georgie. Talk to you soon.”

“But you were going to read my manuscript,” my father shouted as Angelina slipped out the door, then half-sprinted down the walk through our garden. “Well, bugger that slag with a buttered broom handle. Georgina?”

“Don’t talk to me, Richard.”

I leaned in close, trying to read their nuances, their motions, their faces. “What the hell are you doing?”

Nearly tumbled down the steps when I leapt up, my heart rocketing into my throat. “Aggie, just headed downstairs for a cup of tea.”

“Have you been in my room?”

“No, of course not. Why? Is something– um, missing?”

She cocked an eyebrow, licked her lips, then replied. “No, nothing’s missing. Just my notebooks fell over, and I know you’re a nosy little brat who likes to snoop around in other people’s things.”

“Maybe it was Michael, looking for inspiration for his Great American Novel.”

“Fucking idiot. I’m pretty sure only Americans are allowed to write those.” I nodded empathetically, then slipped away before she realized the horror on my face. The ring, she knew it was missing.

*

While reaching my arm down the air vent, the screws rolling against my knees, I wondered how I would formulate this scene in the final draft of my memoir. Would I write the scene dramatic, my breathing heavy, my fingers scrambled to find the lost ring, my eyes shifting constantly to the clock that hinted at my impending doom? Maybe not so suspenseful. Maybe more comedic.

Halfway through, my hand would get stuck and I would hear my sister begin her ascent up the stairs. At the moment, she shopped for Christmas presents with my parents while Michael sat upstairs doing whatever Michael usually did, probably writing another rip-off Stephen King novel.

As I thought about a comedy of errors, a series of mishaps in the story like a 3 Stooges cartoon but more literary, I feared my hand might actually get stuck. As if how I fictionalized the event might preemptively affect the actual event. Like a blooper, but from real life.

People in the audience at a play— they laugh politely at the gaffs but laugh the hardest when you lynch your lines, when you forget a word, when your wig tumbles off, powder clouding the air. Laughing at something that’s supposed to be funny, that only makes you a conformist. It’s the fuck-ups that really make people cackle.

I withdrew my hand and wiped the black, grainy smudge from my fingertips. When first contemplating the lost ring, I considered telling my parents, but then Agatha would know I lost the ring. Also, we had moved beyond tattle-tale-ing on each other because it meant the snitch too would face punishment. We knew so much about each other, we could never blame each other directly, only indirectly, like two hostile nations pointing nukes at the others’ capitals, knowing once we set off the explosives, we insured our mutual destruction.

Dropping the vent back over the hole, I began to tighten the screw when I heard omeone creeping down the hallway. I faced the door, my hands shaking, and then I dropped and crawled underneath Agatha’s bed. I imagined that in the fictional version of the moment, I might feel like a character in a horror movie, breathing slowly as the serial killer stalks around the bed. The door opened, and dirty sneakers trod across the room before halting next to Agatha’s book case.

After some strain, the person sat down on her bed, and I could hear pages flapping. The sneakers smelled like dirt and mashed potatoes, a hairy ankle sticking out. “What are you doing?”

As I clambered from under the bed, Michael fumbled with Agatha’s notebook to return it to its hiding place. “Shit, Neil. You scared me.”

“You’re reading Agatha’s journals? Trying to steal ideas?”

“I’m just– what are you doing in her room?”

“I’m just– I– uh– so she keeps the notebooks behind the other books on the book shelf.”

Michael nodded. “She’s smart. Turns ‘em sideways so they lie flat against the back of the book case, and they don’t stick out. But I found them this time. Have you read this stuff?”

“It’s shit.”

“I think she’s pretty good, actually. Might be the best writer in the family. I mean, at least she’s honest.”

“Honest? She’s hormonal. Dad’s the best writer.”

Michael screwed up his face. “He only writes reviews. Anyways, dad’s not all that smart.”

He only said that, I suspected, because dad refused to read his newest project. Dad had tried to read previous novels by Michael, but then Michael never finished them, and my father grew frustrated with this until he refused to not comment on any more of Michael’s unfinished manuscripts.

Being brutally criticized, my brother could probably withstand that but what broke his heart and his resolve was being ignored. As if his work had grown so insignificantly droll, my father could not devote time to criticize its quality.

The front door opened, and Michael and I retreated from Agatha’s lair to stand in Michael’s room. On the desk stood a stack of clean notebooks, a row of mechanical pencils filled with graphite sticks. “You’re planning to write a lot?”

“I have been writing a lot.”

“And what is it this time? Like, a story about dragons or is this another Philip K. Dick rip-off.”

Shrugging, Michael moved the notebooks into his drawer. “I’m working on my magnum opus. My bestseller.”

“You can’t just decide it’s a bestseller before it’s even started.”

“But it’s all about the dramatic inner lives of a group of writers, on whom the nation recognizes.”

“You mean mom? What are you writing?”

Michael took a deep breath and sat down on the chair. “Oh, well, a memoir.”

The door opened, and Agatha dropped her shopping bags in the hallway before storming in. “What were you two doing in my room?”

“But we weren’t–“

“My notebooks were on the bed, you little snoops. You don’t have to be so damned jealous that I can write poetry and you can’t. Michael, stop being so desperate.”

I cut in, “He was probably just collecting research for his memoir.”

“What a joke. Michael, please go throw yourself out of a library window.”

Michael’s face grew red. “Shut up, Agatha. You’re not even good anyway. The only reason anyone likes you is because you starting seeing that Greg guy.”

“Greg? Michael, you’re–“

“Oh, you know, just the guy you talk on the phone with every night, that boy you write poems about. He’s four years older than you, and I mean, it’s not a coincidence you’re featured in his magazine.”

“You’re a nosy little creep.”

I looked between them. “You’re dating someone?”

Mum walked in. “Dating who?”

“Greg,” said Michael. “He must be an American, and he wrote that article about Agatha, and now she thinks she’s hot shit. But she’s not. Once I publish my memoir, everyone will know.”

“You can’t publish a memoir,” said mum. “You’re not even an adult yet. You don’t know anything about life.”

Shaking my head, I looked to Agatha. “Did he give you the ring?”

“Right? Agatha, what’s going on?”

“How do you– you lost the fucking ring, didn’t you? Mum, he lost my damned engagement ring.”

Mum turned dead white, pressing her hand against the door and gasping dramatically like they do in the movies. “Engaged? Who are you engaged to?”

“Greg, probably,” said Michael, retreating to his bed.

“I didn’t to lose it. I just held that card, and then– it fell out.”

“You’re getting married and you haven’t told us. You’re not even an adult yet, Agatha.”

Michael smirked at this. “Yeah, Agatha, you’re not even–“

She lunged for me, toppling me to the floor as she clawed at my face. “You little snarky bastard. You lost the ring. I was going to give it back to him but now you lost it. And he’ll hate me. Even more than when I told him no.”

“You told him no? Agatha, what?” Mum looked even more horrified, clutching her blouse.

Everything that was happening, I could not help but imagine how awesome it could play out in my memoir. How Agatha had turned violent over her passionate secrets, how my mother felt so scandalized.

Mum called up my dad, and with Agatha, they drifted to the kitchen to discuss Agatha’s engagement ring. I sat upstairs, relieved they had forgotten to ground me for snooping in her room, and Michael began writing in his notebook.

“I don’t know why you’re trying. I think I’ve already got the memoir market for this family cornered.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m working on one too, I meant. No offense.”

Michael shrugged. “They’re probably different anyways.”

I chewed on my cheek and walked from the room. “We’re just different people. How different could they be?”

In my room, I began to write, but I found it hard to concentrate once dad started yelling. Something about how Agatha didn’t deserve to be off in California if she were just hooking up with indie magazine editors. Somehow, I could not write the truth, so I wrote something else: a story about a boy in a family of writers.

The father, a children’s book illustrator. The mother, a redundant poet. His older brother, a budding literary novelist. And a little sister, who had decided she wanted to be a doctor instead.

Every story we tell is a memoir disguised as fiction. The characters we write, they’re just derivatives of ourselves, expressions of who we want to be and who we don’t want to be. We’re obscuring the truth in fiction.

We live anecdotal lives. Everything we can do becomes just another story to tell our parents or friends or spouses when we get home from school or work or Pilates. As humans, we love stories. In the case of lying about who you are, come full-loaded with anecdotes. Stories make you believable—that’s why Hitler promoted the publication of anti-Semitist children’s books.

This is just my version of a children’s book, starring me. Everyone wants to write a memoir, to cash in on their stories, so why can’t I?

The truth, when it’s unwrapped, when it’s raw, burns our skin with embarrassment. We recognize too much of ourselves in the truth, things we could not say out loud printed onto a page. We’re so afraid of sharing our secrets, we make ourselves into a breathing sarcophagus. We write our confessions on bathroom walls, trying to find salvation in anonymity. And we only end up alone.

*

                The day after Christmas, Angie visited to pick up the manuscript for the first adventure of Rhonda Flame, the protagonist of a true-crime-inspired erotica series. Angie agreed to read dad’s manuscript too, maybe out of starch politeness.

Agatha found the ring by fishing down the air vent with a campfire skewer. We celebrated by sealing the ring in an envelope and mailing it back to California, back to Greg, who I felt slightly sorry for. Then again, if we were an American magazine editor, he probably deserved better than Agatha. If he had made that mistake, she’d be even more of a crazy, psycho bitch. Not that her foulness bothered me– it made good fodder for a memoir, that memoir I still needed to start writing.

Don’t Bite the Hand That Gives You Loads of Money

Now, I’m aware that a lot of publishing companies practice some crazy principles and are habitually slow and outdate. Which is why I’d prefer to be picked up by an indie group (also because the content of my book might be highly inappropriate for the majority of the reading public).

But this one guy, Sebastian Marshall, may have crossed a line. Read his rant here: http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/an-open-letter-to-simon-and-schuester-ceo-carolyn-reidy

Basically, this guy badly bad-mouthed Simon and Schuster. Seriously, read this. It gives a grisly insight into all of the dirty going-ons at big publishers, but also… it probably lost Sebastian Marshall a job. But maybe he’ll get famous for going out with a middle finger. Only time will tell.

What do you make of this?

Would you ever give your boss the “F” off and then blog about it?

Mind you, his advance was 65,000, about 50,000 more than a normal advance.

How I Write

Interview with Poetry Matters

Poetry Matters recently released a video of my interview during the Multicultural Open Mic for Arts in the Heart! Check it out!

Would You Read This?

The Writing History of Derek Berry: Part 2

Derek is telling a wonderful story about how he finally wrote a novel he’s proud of and all about everything he’s ever done in writing. Read part 1 here: http://derekberry.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/the-writing-history-of-derek-berry-part-1/

Read about his book here: http://derekberry.wordpress.com/about-the-book-word-salad/

Last time, I told you about Aurelia, the book I wrote when I was only eleven.

After I put Aurelia away, I ventured onto several tangents. Some time during my freshman year, I ventured into rocky territory. I dropped fantasy, which I always intended to write in my youth. My “younger” youth. Instead, I wanted to write horror. I tried all sorts of projects, too- a learning experience. Dean Koontz rip-offs, Stephen King rip-offs. the most cringe-worthy idea was about a horde of very classy vampires who exploited the vampire craze of the day by sleeping with creepy, nerdy Twihards.

As a sophomore, I began writing for the Hornet Herald, which I credit with my skills at writing funny blog posts! After being subjected to plenty of snooze-inducing news stories, I finally tried my hand at a column. A Valentines Column that I may one day re-post here (probably on Valentines Day). For the past year, I’ve almost exclusively been writing columns for our school newspaper, funny serious, and otherwise. Some might find their way here, some not. I’ll have to dig through the archives of my old computer. Such practice has helped me learn how to write blogs, I’d like to believe.

Last summer, I began writing poetry. It began as angry tirades but became more like this: http://derekberry.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/reading-poetry/ More poetry videos will be coming soon, I promise.

A very captivating poetry reading very late at night

I began writing Word Salad for NANOWRIMO, which is in November when you’re supposed to write 50,000 words in one month. The book was not exactly what it is today, because it was called The Life and Times of a Serial Killer and dealt solely with Sebastian Martinelli. The story I wanted to tell only involved a serial killer and a lot of gory acts of violence: this was before I learned how to better write about, you know, “feelings.”
The story now, is far large in expanse and storytelling. But I do suggest NANOWRIMO to people who want to jump-start ideas. No, the story will not be able to be published right away, and no 50,000 is not the length of a real novel, but it’s a good start. Learn more here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/ Even if you don’t want to be a commercial author, it’s fun and I think it’s great for aspiring writers.

Well, it took about two years after that of revisions. In fact, I think I just decided to change the ending… again. Because as long as I haven’t published the book yet, I can do that. The problem arose because of a beta reader’s comments who found that the ending was very unfair to the consistency of one character.

I’ve shaped the story, though, to a place where I’m very proud to show it off, to market it via a blog. To send query letters, though I should stop until I rework the ending. Otherwise, I’m very excited to share it with the world as soon as possible. What path I know shall take is unknown. We will one day see. Also, I’m planning on printing and publishing a book of poetry. Merely a chapbook to hawk off at poetry readings. But… I’ve reconsidered and now I believe I shall also sell an e-book copy of the book (once I put all the poems together and write an introduction and put together a chapbook.) But hopefully, the poetry book which has yet to be named will be coming to an Amazon website near you!

That is the entire and exhaustive history of my writing. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the misadventures of Derek Berry!

The Writing History of Derek Berry: Part 1

I think it would be fun to recount the writing misadventures of my own short life, so read about them here.

Derek began writing stories at the age of five. His first story was called “The Night Before Christmas” in which Santa Claus fell down the chimney and died in a fire, sort of like a rip-off of “The Santa Claus” sans Tim Allen.

Now he’s written something he’s more proud of, a novel called Word Salad. Read about it here: http://derekberry.wordpress.com/about-the-book-word-salad/

In the fifth grade, I wrote a twelve-part story about a kid who tracks down magical amulets and saves the world and whatnot. This was the first time I wrote anything especially gory. Unnecessarily gory. I think the villain (Mr. Paradox) was stabbed through his Achilles tendon and shot in the face. Other character met similarly grisly ends: pushed off cliffs, burned alive, eaten by flesh-eating bugs.

This first foray into the nitty gritty may foreshadow some of my gory/strange story choices nowadays.

At that age, writing helped me express myself; I was not the social animal I am today. I wasn’t even any sort of animal, per se. I could not speak very well for the first eleven years of my life, so I wrote. I read. Maybe having spent eleven years nearly silent, I feel like I should make up for it now. But writing, cliche enough, became an escape for me. I never questioned that deep down, I wanted to tell stories. Before wanting to become a writer, I thought I’d love to be a film director until I learned that they were usually not responsible with WRITING the story. I wanted to make up stories for people to enjoy.

In the fifth grade, I decided I wanted to write professionally. How hard could it be? At eleven, I could simply type up a book and send it to a big publisher. They’d fall in love and give lots and lots of money so I could continue to write books for the rest of my life in the safety of a lake house. Well, it’s been six years since that dream was first inspired, and sadly, no lake house. No published works.

Of course when Random House did not mail me back, I did not lose faith. Instead, I started writing something new. What you’ll notice about my writing life is that I’ve never stopped writing. I don’t expect to not publish Word Salad, but if it fails to garner any sort of attention, I shan’t stop writing. That’s just not what I do. Even in the sixth grade, I understood that. So, at twelve, I began to write what I like to think as “my first real novel.”

It was horrible. I was twelve. But I’m still damn proud out it, because I wrote it. Like I said, I was TWELVE. I finished the first and even penned a sequel, planning out a whole series before tiring out of the story. But still, this novel I wrote was even longer than the one I’m pushing right now. And it’s not THAT bad, even, especially considering a sixth grader wrote it. It took about a year and a half to write and was called Aurelia.

The basic premise was that there is an eighth continent floating around in the sky where magical stuff happens, the place where our myths come from. Because an evil sorcerer vanquished years ago threatens to return (his name was Zinnebarr, which mind you, is an awesome name), the Aurelians seek the help of “the chosen one.” The said chosen one was Declin Furthermore who is kidnapped by a giant rainbow-colored bird named Tropez and taken to the capitol. There, Declin learns it is his duty and destiny to find Zinnebarr’s spirit and destroy his source of power, The Shadow Orb.

Well, it’s not exactly original, but I think writing something like this was a great step in the right direction. No one takes you seriously at twelve, so I did get kindly replies from agents. “I can’t help you publish this, but keep on writing” became the ultimate sentiment. What I’m most proud of is what issues I tackled. I continued to rewrite and rewrite the story I’d written until I was about 14. And the story, therefore, became more imaginative, more complicated. The fictional continent was mostly vacant grasslands for some reason with only about 17 real cities, but each city was important. The rest of the continent, I remember, was covered by either desert or a really creepy forest. One of the cities was the industrial center of the otherwise pollution-free land, so a magical dome was placed over it to keep in all the nasty smog. Things like that, I’m proud of.

I may blog another day about the ingenuity of Aurelia, of which I still have a copy of in my room, but unfortunately, no digital copies. I might try to find a copy of it on a flashdrive somewhere and share its juvenile awesomeness gratis to the world.

Well, that’s the end of part 1 of this awesome story. Tune in tomorrow or Monday for Part 2 of The Writing History of Derek Berry.

Writer’s Angst: Self-Published E-books

Here’s another common ailment of writers which I currently suffer under. ANGST! Toward publishers, the reading public, and indeed, agents. Why?

Well, this sort of angst forms in the hearts of every writer who is again and again rejected. Publishing is certainly a wonky battleground right now- bullets zip through manuscript pages and query letters flutter into pools of dirty blood.

Here’s the thing: I’m starting to get the hang of marketing. I think I might understand a wee bit about it, because I’ve been blogging. And my view count approaches 1000, and every day this blog receives more views. Exciting, right?

So in the midst of writing query letters, reading back through my novel to edit more for the hell of it… some people (my family, mostly) have the gall to ask, “Why not self publish?”

Of course, I am born-bred to believe that self-published books, uploaded e-books are invariably horrible. There is such a terrible stigma behind these sorts of books that I cringe every time someone suggests I do it.

Then, I considered it. Wait! Derek, you’re a product of the 21st century, fairly apt at social networking. Hell, you spend most of your time “social networking.” Well, Derek, what if we DO self-publish? As an e-book on Amazon? You wouldn’t need an agent, you could do whatever you’d like to do with your novel. Total control. You know plenty of talented artists. Enlist their help for cover design. Derek, we may have stumbled upon a small miracle.

And the truth is… when I first started writing, I would never have considered self-publishing. But now, e-books seem like the future. It seems that perhaps for a new, unknown author, it could be cheapest way to get published, to get my name out there, make money. Because of the really dark and taboo subject material of Word Salad, it may be better if I do. Every agent says: “Writing is great. Don’t think I can sell something this… um… extreme.”

And well, where does something extreme belong? Maybe… the internet!

Tell me what you think of self-publishing, then go read the synopsis of my book: http://derekberry.wordpress.com/about-the-book-word-salad/

For say, $3.99, would you buy it for your e-reader? Or for your computer or Ipod? What would you do?

Self-publishing used to seem like it would be a defeat, but maybe in it’s own way, it could be an actual victory.

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