Red Ochre Interiview
A long tedious interview. But may interest some. And I threw the review in. Self-promotion although who I'm promoting my work to -- ? And why? But it was easy to paste.
I hope this email finds you in great spirits. I am happy to have the interview questions ready for you. If you can complete these before the 31st, we can include them in our November issue. If not, we can shoot for a December publication.
I do apologize for not getting to you sooner; this has been the busiest month ever! In fact, I am leaving in a few hours for Orlando to lecture at the CMA conference.
But I wanted to get these to you, so you can begin working on them.
Let me know your schedule and your estimation for when you may be able to complete these! I'll keep staff posted, so they know whether to prep the November or December issue for you!
Mimi Ferebee: If you had, to sum up, Early Out in a few sentences, what would be your driving points?
This is the hardest question here. I didn’t write for catharsis; I’m leery of that. But it was a catharsis for me just the same. When I touch readers, when my vision and perceptions made manifest in words resonates in another human being’s heart and mind it levels me. I’m reaching out of my isolation, and it is a privilege that is difficult to articulate.
If there is any one thing that I write for it is to bring the scene to life, what I saw, what happened. I’m putting you there. The first story I wrote was called Knock Out. That day is burnt onto my memory. A lot of my experiences were lonely, lonely memories. I’ll bring the reader there with me.
Mimi Ferebee: And the motivation behind this prose piece? Which writers inspired your work? And if not an inspiration from your literary peers or foremothers/fathers, explain what grounded you to write this?
I started reading late. I was eight years old before I could read. I was an undiagnosed dyslexic. Once I was finally able to read, I became an avid reader, but my memory is hazy. I recall a lot of books by black authors. My parents were left-wing activists, and that’s what we had around the house. They didn’t restrict my reading. I remember reading Ramparts Magazine when I was eleven and twelve years old.
I was fascinated by Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown. I had a fascination for street life, life on the margins; maybe it was a portent.
Baldwin. I read Another Country no less than five times over the years; a very sensuous book.
When I was 14, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley. I was mesmerized by his descriptions of street life; crime and hustling.
I’ve read so many books that I can’t remember them all or list them all here.
The Painted Bird, by Jerzy Kozinski, has devastating power.
On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates, I wept when I read that book.
Dino, By Nick Touches, I read that when I was living in Vegas. I read this book a good three times.
I went through a period of reading just True Crime books. I went through the entire genre.
I don’t know if a particular writer influenced my style, but I should mention Primo Levy, the best of the Holocaust chroniclers. Primo was a witness, an acutely perceptive and lucid observer of unspeakable horror. He tells what he saw; that’s all.
If these books, these authors influenced my style I don’t know, but I do see something here, I see that I was drawn to the intensity of life on the margins, the darkness of life hidden behind a mundane, pedestrian normalcy. What are people, what are we?
Mimi Ferebee: What will readers take away from this work? Having reviewed it and read the reviews of others, everyone seems to appreciate your unique narrative style. Raw, yet wondrously human, your main character has turned many heads. Is this what you take away from it? Or is there another point that should be raised as well.
It’s a good read; an entertaining story at the least. I’ve read my work of course and what comes through is a depth of compassion that I don’t think I’m big enough to carry. This compassion is coming through me. I don’t feel that I’m big enough to carry that although maybe I could grow into it. This book won’t change the world, but maybe I could touch a few lives. People have remarked, “What a life!” Some people question whether it all happened. I tell them that whatever subculture, whatever milieu I happened to be moving through at the time I was surrounded by people trying to negotiate pretty much the same circumstances that I was struggling with. It’s a big world out there.
Mimi Ferebee: On another topic, when did you finally decide to pursue publication for this piece? When was it that you looked at your manuscript and said, “That’s it. It’s finished. On to publication!”?
It likely will never be finished. I have pieces published; the manuscript can be published in parts because it is stories connected by the protagonist, by me. This is my vision, my perceptions. What happened is that my girlfriend found a contest, The Simon Fraser University’s First; Book Contest; The Writer’s Studio; their creative writing department. It was cosponsored by Anvil Press of Vancouver.
At this point, I had about 136,000 words on a dating site writer’s forum, and I had a following of readers. Anyway, I shaped it up on instinct and Kelli helped me proof it. It cost like 35 bucks to enter, and we went and had it printed, and I forgot about it. I knew I would never hear from them again. Meanwhile, I was making hard copy submissions to Canadian publishers. I was pasting the rejections on my wall. Wallpaper. I’m on the phone talking to my girlfriend and reading emails; I’m double tasking. I see one from SFU, “Uh oh, another rejection… “I’m reading, and it’s like a hand reached in and squeezed my heart. My chest tightened, and I couldn’t talk, “What’s wrong?!” Finally, I choke it out, “I’m on the long list...” I’m sobbing, and two weeks later I shortlisted. More tears.
That’s when I started to believe.
Mimi Ferebee: Is this your first book? If so, how difficult was it to construct?
It is my first book, and it was not difficult. I didn’t have a book in mind until I had books worth of material. Early on I was sending stories to my girlfriend, and she said, “Holy crap! You can write. I think you have at least one book in you.” We are not together anymore, but this woman believed in me more than I ever did myself. And I will never forget her for that.
I want to say something about difficult. If it’s hard for me to write then, it seems as though I am forcing something. I don’t want my work to show. I’m not trying to exceed my talent or the parameters of my style. I’m not into showing off. I’m not in love with words, but I am in love with power. I’m thinking about what I want to say first. Then I want to get there fairly directly. I have a voice. Where it came from at this late stage in my life, I don’t know but, but, but, maybe I’ll just say it: I think it's God-given.
I revised the manuscript for a major NY publisher, made it linear; I stitched it together and made parallel, intersecting timelines, but they didn’t appear to be interested. I mean they had read the original manuscript and suggested a more sustained narrative, and yes that was work. It’ wasn’t onerous but it was work.
Mimi Ferebee: Many of our readers enjoy hearing about authors' submission processes. Do you have any anxiety about submitting your work for publication? If so, what helps to calm your spirits throughout this process? Obviously submitting a book is much different that one, short story.
I know writers, and I’ve met writers, and I’ve read writers talking about this very subject and the big thing, what they say is this: never quit; never give up. Some prominent and successful writers were half dead before someone offered them a contract, in a manner of speaking.
I started out doing snail mail submissions, and that’s time consuming and expensive. I prefer electronic submissions, that way you can get a quick turnaround. You can get an auto reject with the usual BS about how even though you are not a person, don’t take it personally. And someone else may be interested in your tripe but don’t darken our door again. I have gotten gratuitously cruel rejections, particularly from agents; I have also received some very generous and encouraging rejections from editors.
Those kept me going.
It’s going to hurt and make you doubt yourself. That’s what rejection is. It’s rejection. I have been lucky enough to have gotten positives along with negatives. It’s not like my book has been picked up yet. I’m published but not nearly enough. My failing is that when I have a potential publisher on the line I slack off on submissions. I put all my eggs in one basket. I wasted a lot of time with this NY house. I thought they were going to bite and I reworked the whole manuscript for nothing. And they were pretty cavalier about it. This was after the guy offered to mentor me, talk to me but he pretty much ignored me. All I wanted was an update.
I’m not terribly well organized. These people will instruct you on exactly how they want you to submit. A brief synopsis, word count, target market, samples.
Hey, they hold the cards, so you need to obey. It’s like applying for a job. The hard print industry is shrinking, and it is what it is. I’m going to have to buckle down and play the game it I want this to happen. Everybody says it’s just business, but you are talking to a guy who had 50 plus jobs in his life. So, no, I’m not good at playing the game.
Oh, yes, one final thing: make multiple submissions and if a target says no, pass them by, or lie to them. It’s an industry standard regardless of what anyone says. You can’t sit on your work for 3, 4, six months until they get to it, even a three-week turnaround; you can’t wait. Not at my age. Not at any age. Just let them know when you submit. You don’t have to list them all. “Yes, multiple submissions” and that’s enough.
Finally, I don’t pay you; you pay me. Use your instincts. If somebody promises to help with your book for 600 bucks or even 5000 bucks, imagine if a legitimate publisher tried to move your book for that money. If it seems too good to be true, it is. There are lots of self-publish firms that prey on hard working writers. Be careful. If you want to go that way, review them on-line. I can’t name them, but everybody knows who the big players are. You can get publishers and agents’ lists from writer’s unions on-line.
Mimi Ferebee: When we have authors one-on-one, we always reach out to them to give new advice/tips to our novice and experienced writers. If you can oblige me for a moment, what are your top three literary resources? I'm interested, particularly, in the current tools that help you refine your craft as a writer (e.g. websites, publishing lists, dictionaries, writing workshops, books, speeches, etc.). If you have any underground/excellent not-as-well-known resources, fill us in!
I use publishing lists for submissions. I have an old MS Word program, a crappy Firefox spell checker. I got a cheap HP printer that's pretty good. Literary resources, I guess I have researched Boxrec and other on-line resources. There is a site that lists the genealogy of every Southern Nevada casino. I’ve used that. I have a dictionary a grammar book, and a thesaurus but I rarely use them. My spelling sucks, but I’m learning to spell from the spell checker.
It’s not like I’m the big shot writer but if I could: don’t overwrite. Less is more. Let the reader do their part. Let them use their imagination. My writing is not particularly descriptive; it is flat and unemotional, but the emotion is there. See, but that’s just my style. That’s what works for me. I’ve said this before; words serve me. I don’t want to show off. I’m not looking to patronize the reader. First I think about what I want to say. I’m looking for that payoff, and it could be one sentence or even a word.
Mimi Ferebee: What advice do you have for individuals looking to publish their novels or collections? You have the first-hand experience. What is a couple of things that you would have done differently to make this journey easier?
Don’t alienate publishers regardless. They got power; you don’t. Not until you at least are published. When you have a verifiable market value, you can get mad. Until then suck it up. I’m talking about myself of course. I had some words with a local editor and three days later I got a parcel and inside was my manuscript. This was the guy that published some of my pieces. Yeah, I had a bi-winning moment, and I burnt the guy down and maybe every single publisher on the lower mainland. It isn’t too bad, losing them but I do regret it. We are the supplicants. It is like applying for a job so mind your P’s and Q’s.
Mimi Ferebee: This is your spotlight, talk to readers. Where should we hope to see your work in the upcoming months? Feel free to speak about Early Out, as well as any other literary projects.
I don’t know Mimi. I’m hoping for a miracle, but that’s okay, I’ve had them before. I use various on-line media to disseminate and promote my work, but I doubt it. For instance, I write for an on-line boxing magazine, they don’t pay, none of them do pay, but I get my stuff out there. I've got my website, the best-kept secret on the net. I got video readings on YouTube under MrBodypro8.
I know I need to start submitting again. I feel the inertia. I’m getting auto rejections. I guess I didn’t submit according to their format. The days of getting discovered are long gone. I don’t know where my work would fit. Young people, maybe any people. It’s strong; I know that it is.
Writing ain’t work but finding a publisher is. It’s time-consuming and frustrating. You go down the list; Oh! They accept creative writing submissions year round! You go to their website and read all the stuff and go to the next page then at the bottom it says we are closed to submissions at this time until further notice. I’m learning as I go, learning to save time, learning the hard way.
Well, whatever. Boo-hoo. They got their lookout. Hard print is under pressure. If getting published was easy then there would be more authors than readers. Everybody’s got a keyboard.
I appreciate this interview, Mimi. I can reach out. I wouldn’t even be where I am now if it hadn’t been for my girlfriend’s help and encouragement. She was the wind beneath my wings.
I want to thank you and Red Ochre for giving me this opportunity and for giving me exposure. I stumbled onto your magazine when I was at a low ebb and losing hope. Your review of my manuscript helped me to see the value and validity of what I am doing.
I'm excited about your answers! I hope you have a very good time completing this interview.
From: RED OCHRE LiT <email@example.com>
To: Jesse Kaellis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, September 16, 2011 8:44:05 AM
Subject: Re: Mimi
We actually had a chance to table your story on Wednesday--everyone finished early so we sat down and discussed!
And yes, while there were many typos, which can be easily fixed, the story itself still shined. We talked about this, noting that typically when a story hasn't been proofed to the Nth degree, it makes it very difficult to keep reading. As editors, these small glitches make us stop frequently, thus pausing the flow of the story. Ironically, in your case, no one cared. Your story was so gripping, that everyone laughed at how easy it was to ignore the typos and keep on with the pace of your tale.
That being said, I have posted our consensus below:
"Jesse Kaellis' Early Out is an engaging read. Bottom line. The protagonist grips you from page one with his unique style of narration. The author has a gift for literary simplicity, which allows an easy tunneling through candid perspectives. His tell-it-like-it-is technique drives the novel, taking readers on a surprising journey that will have you laughing one minute, nervous the next, shocked, and you will continue reading because you’ve probably never read anything like it before. This is a solid manuscript, one that is as interesting as it is original. And for that, I thank Jesse for the time and energy spent on creating this story."
As my name is the one associated with the review, we write our thoughts from my perspective. I noticed you sent previous reviews of the manuscript, which I just read so as to not influence my judgment of your text. I see that our consensus mirrors the feedback that you have already received, which should tell you how powerful your script is.
While you've got a great main character and a brilliant story on your hands, we would definitely suggest tending to your typos before shooting this out for publication. Typos, unfortunately, can be a deterrent and with a story so great, you wouldn't want that to be a deciding factor for someone laying down your work.
I believe if you clean it up one more time--do an entire read through, sifting for typos and overall fluidity of the text--you will be good to go. You've made it to what we call the "clean up" stage, where you just need to give it one last polish before showcasing. This is more for the editor's benefit than yours. That way you don't make it easy for anyone to find fault within your work.
But I would say a Congratulations are in order for finishing this work. You are a very fine writer and I would be very happy to promote this text to my readerships and my editorial peers. While this can never guarantee publication, it definitely guarantees exposure -- which is never a bad thing when trying to promote oneself!
What are your thoughts?�?