Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Changing Names

I had started out writing my memoir giving fictitious names to some of the main characters. I kept family members' real names. There were a lot of people who only appear on a couple of pages, that I had kept their real names.

At the writer's conference, we were advised to either get permission to use people's real names or change names and places. The person who lead that session writes mostly biography, notably Voices and Silences by James Earl Jones and Penelope Niven, and she recently published a memoir of her own. She wasn't taking questions from the class, but we could write her questions that she will answer by email.

Today I have been doing a series of FIND...REPLACE using WORD. Then when I go back and read the changes, I'm having a hard time remembering who those people are now with the changed names. (Who the heck is Bernard?) What I'm wondering is even if I change all names and all places, anybody who went to high school or college with me, will be able to piece together some of who is who. That's assuming of course that anybody reads it...ROFL. There were only a couple of people that I wasn't nice about. They will recognize themselves, but possibly only a few other people in the world will even care. And since most of it happened 40 - 50 years ago, a lot of the people are dead, or won't remember anyway.

If I get a real publisher, they will have to advise me. If I publish myself, then I would be subject to being sued. That could work in my favor with increased sales...LOL

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Dreaded Blue Screen of Death

I have had this thing happen to me periodically for months now, but only every few weeks. I put off calling support because I was always in the middle of writing something and I knew that it would take hours on the phone. This week I got that screen every day when I boot up. I would reboot and it would be fine all day.

I decided to bite the bullet and call support today since my support contract expires in 2 months. I was on hold for 45 minutes!! When Abdul finally came on the phone, I read to him the stop codes and he said that indicated a problem with the modem. I only use the modem as a backup for my high speed connection, and as a matter of fact I haven't used it at all on this PC. Abdul took over my computer with the Dell Go to Assist product, and tried to update the driver for the modem, and every attempt failed to unzip all the files downloaded. He tried MANY times. Finally he asked if he could leave me without a modem. ARGGGHHH!

I agreed, saying that I would watch for any future blue screens and then call him back to get a working modem driver. Total time on the phone: 2 hours. Thank goodness for cordless speaker phones.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I attended the NC Writer's Network Conference in Winston-Salem over the weekend. This was my first writer's conference. Not that I have anything to compare it with, but I thought it was excellent. They had a variety of session in different tracks to choose from.

There were choices for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screen writing, playwriting, publishing, something for everybody.

My choices:

The Perfect Pitch: Pitching your Manuscript

Step Away from the Desk: What to expect from a Publisher

Masks and Mirrors: Writing a Memoir

DIY Career Building Through Blogs and Self-Publishing

When Short Stories Don't Work and Why

All of the Faculty were people working in their respective fields, whether publisher's, editors for publishers, best-selling writers, or agents. In addition there were published authors chatting over morning coffee, and for evening sessions. I missed the Friday Night Opening to avoid an additional night in the hotel. The opening keynoter was Jill McCorkle. The Saturday dinner speaker was Robert Morgan. Both of these writers, as well as most of the faculty, have their roots in North Carolina. Robert Morgan was signing his newly released biography, BOONE. He also read some rather humorous passages from the life of Daniel Boone.

All of the seminars I attended were right on time for me. The DIY Career Building was most enlightening. Two of the speakers were "accidental authors" who first built a following with their blogs. Biodiesel Activist Lyle Estill started his Energy Blog out of his own personal passion, and he was happy having a small following of similar-minded people. When some national energy activist linked to his blog, his following soared, and a publisher came to him with an offer to publish his blog in a book.

Joseph Anderson started his blog as Notes to Mom while traveling through India. The internet would provide his mother with more up-to-date information on his travels than he could expect from using the postal system. I guess Mom shared it with friends who told friends, and before he knew it he had a following. He became another unexpected author.

Mur Lafferty is a self-described sci-fi geek, pod-caster, and mom. She syndicates her sci-fi novellas through weekly free pod-cast installments. She developed such a following of listeners who got impatient for the next installment that she published and sold her novellas in print.

Amy Tiemann has a doctorate in Neurosciences from Stanford Univ, but wrote MOJO MOM as the "missing manual for motherhood." Her lack of credentials as a parenting expert launched her into self-publishing and creation of a web-site that established her as an authority. She has been interviewed on the Today Show, and now is a professional blogger on parenting and technology for cnet.com.


The last session I had at the conference was Manuscript Mart. I submitted the first 20 pages of my manuscript to be read and critiqued by a literary agent. I'm still digesting that whole experience. The trouble is, there are two books in my book. There is the safe part of my story, some of the things I have blogged about, that are moderately interesting. And then there is the other part that I haven't told in my blogs, the conflict, the compelling part that makes my story unique. The compelling part is kind of buried in the safe part....the backstory. Now I need to strip away some of that backstory and cut to the chase.

I was thinking of trashing the first two chapters. Now I'm thinking how I can salvage them with more personality development in the backstory.

It's not an easy story to tell, but I'm getting better about my one-line pitch:

A coming-of-age-in-the-sixties black, single, pregnant, living in Munich for a junior year abroad...story. How does that grab you?