Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Get It Written & Published. Poets Read Their Stuff. On-Line Floricanto

Michael Sedano

Power of the press, goes the old adage, belongs to the person who owns the press. Fans of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes swear that’s true. Democrats and fair-minded people swear at that truth, but stand impotent as one after another owner of newspapers, television and radio stations, magazines, slides toward the dark side.

In book publishing, the power of the press takes on a highly elaborated form. it’s obviously never sufficient to have a great story, scintillating writing, characters with voice and ethos. A writer needs an agent, an agent needs a conecta with insiders at a publisher. With those magic ingredients, a writer might get work looked at. Only after the process meanders along—unless you’re a celebrity or the child of a half-term Alaska governor—will a publisher deign to green light a project.

Poets have always known the surest, if not only, route to an audience is small publishing, self publishing. Likewise, novelists and short fiction writers have begun to discover enhanced access to power of the press. Not through ownership but through contracting with “on demand” publishing businesses who, for a fee, can convert a computer file into a gleaming paperback with ISBN number y todo.

Self-publishing, however, comes at a price. Agents and publishers liken a self-published manuscript to a kiss of death for that work. One publisher, speaking to the National Latino Writers Conference, spoke clearly: publishers do not want a work that has a history of self-publication. In other words, don’t do it. Other critics of self-publishing like to draw blood, referring to such books as literary SPAM. Ouch.

But there may be a change in the wind. Recently, a representation firm, Dystel & Goderic, announced it will lend a hand, for a fee, to their stable of writers curious about entering the self-publishing game via e-books as opposed to physical books: what we are going to do is to facilitate e-publishing for those of our clients who decide that they want to go this route, after consultation and strategizing about whether they should try traditional publishing first or perhaps simply set aside the current book and move on to the next. We will charge a 15% commission for our services in helping them project manage everything from choosing a cover artist to working with a copyeditor to uploading their work. We will continue to negotiate all agreements that may ensue as a result of e-publishing, try to place subsidiary rights where applicable, collect monies and review statements to make sure the author is being paid. In short, we will continue to be agents and do the myriad things that agents do.

It may be a huge leap from a represented e-book to a self-published paperback. Then again, maybe not. La Bloga-Tuesday welcomes guest columnist Jose Rodriguez, a self-published novelist, to discuss the experience and satisfaction of being one’s own publisher.

Guest Columnist: Jose Rodriguez. Being a Self-Publishing Writer

In the days of paper books those presses that catered and still cater to authors who published their own work were called vanity presses. The adjective meant that the author’s work was not up to snuff and had been rejected by the well established book printers in New York city thus the author, acting on his own vanity, had decided to pay from his own pocket to have his manuscript printed.

Today, with the advent of indie presses, self publishing ebook web sites and hand held electronic readers, the monopoly once held by New York publishers is starting to fade. This is the same phenomenon seen by the music industry where an indie band can put their music out on the web and get an audience and make some money while bypassing the record companies.

But make no mistake; self publishing still has a stigma attached to it; many think that a self published author has to be subpar otherwise he or she would have a literary agent and a contract with a big house, plus a nice cash advance.

I’m a self published author who has never snagged an agent or a book contract. I could blame the shortsightedness of the publishing industry, bad luck, my own lack of persistence (even though I have enough rejection slips to wall paper my whole house), or perhaps an utter lack of writing talent. The fact is that I have no agent but I have drawers full of manuscripts, and I’m still writing more.

Janis Joplin sung on Me and Bobby McGee that freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose, so with that in mind, I took the plunge and self published some of my work in ebook form. In this blog I will talk about my experiences with Smashwords.com, a web site that allows authors to publish anything they want in an ebook format. There are other sites that also offer that service and it is worth your time to explore these other options but here I will stick to Smashwords.com because that is who I work with and my experiences with them have been rather good.

Click here and take a look at this page.

Here is me and my stuff. I paid nothing for this web page and I paid nothing for my ebooks. That right there is a good incentive for any aspiring author to get into electronic self publishing. Smashword’s business model is a simple one: indie authors self publish their manuscripts, create an author’s page and link that page to their own web sites, Facebook or Twitter, all that for free. You set the price you want to charge for your work and Smashwords takes a small cut with each paid download and that’s their profit. In my case I give my writing away for free so nobody makes a cent (sorry Smashwords).

Why free? Because I’m more interested in getting people to read my stuff than in making money. Thank God I have a full time job that pays the bills. To charge or not to charge has implications: Smashwords books can also be accessed by the Sony’s Reader Store, Amazon.com and the Apple book store but the catch is that the last two want to see a minimum price of $0.99 per book because they don’t want to waste time with freebies. Sony has my free stuff as you can see here.

Not bad for an unknown author who has no agent. I’m in the Sony catalog; take that New York! And it cost me nothing (thanks Smashwords). I want to tell you the good things about self publishing:

• You self publish what you want when you want. No bouncers at the door telling you that your writing “doesn’t fit our current needs.”
• You set your price.
• You have the ability to update or remove your work and reset your prices and personal page at will.
• Smashwords will automatically and for free translate your manuscript into the most common ebook formats. They will distribute your work beyond their site to big hitters like Amazon.com (If your books are not free).
• You set your web presence.
• Smashwords keeps track of downloads and allows readers to post reviews.
• If people download and pay for your stories you make money.

Of course, there is always the other side of the coin and you must be aware of these things:

• You are wholly responsible for the quality of your writing and the formatting of your manuscript. Smashwords are not line editors, book doctors or a critique group. Before you upload anything it must be edited, re-edited, impeccable, error free and the best you can do. You got one chance to impress readers so don’t blow it with a half ass manuscript. I cannot stress how important it is that you do a professional job when you put something out there. I’m amazed at some ebooks where even the synopsis has grammatical blunders; if an author cannot write a short description of his work, is he going to write a decent book? Probably not.
• Strictly follow the formatting guidelines for the web site you are writing for. These guidelines ensure that your manuscript looks good in a hand held ereader or a computer screen. The simpler your formatting the better off you are.
• You are one among many; you’re an unknown face in a crowd. Just because you put something out there doesn’t mean that fame and fortune will follow. There is that dirty “M” word, marketing. Putting your ebook out there is just the first step on a long climb up a steep and slippery mountain.

While I’m still waiting for fame and fortune I have had thousands of downloads and a few good reviews. This beats having the manuscript sitting in a dusty drawer but it doesn’t mean a book deal or that I can quit my day job.

Follow Janis Joplin’s advice (actually it was Kris Kristofferson who wrote the song) and go for it; after all, what you got to lose?

Poets Reading 1
Alburquerque Tonight! Voz, Palabra, Sonido

Click the poster for a grande view
Poets Reading 2
La Palabra, Plus, At Avenue 50 Studio

Los Angeles' most vibrant art and poetry space, Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park, hosts the every 4th Sunday series, La Palabra. La Bloga had the opportunity to attend the June fête.

Poet-host for the afternoon, Luivette Resto, performed only Emcee tasks. Lástima. Nonetheless, the Sunday 26Jun event made another superb afternoon.

The tacos were ready in advance. Tacos? La Palabra regularly does not have a tacquera on duty serving tacos de lengua, carne asada, pollo; aguas frescas; salsas ricas y chilosas. Take your pick or all of them. Many gente thus enjoyed a snack prior to sitting down for the first event, Open Mic.
Mari Werner took the mic for a pair of quietly meditative pieces. This was Mari's first visit to La Palabra. Her low-key delivery offered a suitable contrast for La Palabra's featured poet, Fernando D. Castro.
Castro, an architect for a public agency, read from his collection, "Redeemable Air Mileage." He began with a evocative piece on la Habana's Malecón, filling the piece with lively onomatopoeia of the sea brushing against the sea wall.

A highly animated, energetic reader, Castro's work, laced with satiric asides and pointed humor, glows under the spotlight he shines upon his word through accomplished oral skill.
Fernando invited his guest, Jonathan Osborn, to perform the final reading of the afternoon. Osborn mounted a rich reading in east Indian dialect of an entertaining work, made all the more so by Osborn's skilled oral interpretation.
La Palabra's afternoon reading, in other words, offered a clinic in reading your own stuff. In a most useful, though perhaps questionable strategy, Castro distributed copies of "Redeemable Air Mileage" allowing audience members to read along with the oral presentation.

Castro prefers a long line heavily laced with dependent clauses and allusions that the printed text helps elucidate. The questionable element came when Castro retrieved the chapbook from the audience, informing them they could keep it in exchange for twelve dollars. In an awkward moment, most returned the publication, now folded and perhaps soiled from taco-holding hands.

The tacos, condiments, and wine were provided as part of the day's final event.In a beautifully conceived idea that technology mucked up, Isabel Rojas Williams and friends mounted a Skype-call with Jose Antonio Aguirre, a Los Angeles architect in Mexico studying mural conservancy.

The slideshow played "live" at Avenue 50 Studio, with Aguirre narrating via Skype. Frustratingly, signal delay had the speaker asking "what slide is up now?" and calling out "next slide" when, live, the projection screen displayed the next one.

The presentation centered around fused glass set into concrete or stone substrates, with a small portion--as the presentation concluded--devoted to painted murals. I hope Williams and the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles tame their technical gremlins and bring back the presentation in a more consumable and audience-friendly form.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto June's Ultimate Tuesday

Summer has come in, lude sing damn you, Arizona. Alabama. Georgia. Who's next to prove that knuckle-headedness is its own reward? Undocumented workers who fled Georgia were laughing with empty pockets and ample schadenfreude when locals, discovering farm labor too exhausting for such delicados, walked off the job after picking a few buckets. The rest of those farmer's crops rot on the ground. What rotten shame.

So it goes. The Facebook group, Poets Responding to SB 1070, is not walking off anyone's rancho. In fact, the poets continue to work for free, last week submitting over 50 poems for consideration. Francisco X. Alarcón and the moderators submit these five poets' work for this final Tuesday of June 2011:

1. "Border Inquest Blues" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

2. “No Consolation for Lidia” by Norma Liliana Valdez

3. "My Land—Not My Land" by Nancy Green

4. "Open the Borders" by Graciela Vega

5. “The Pass-Through Behind Robert's House" by Andrea Mauk

Border Inquest Blues
by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
at what crossing
could my poems
become bread
or water to offer
a people
the thousands
who cross so many
miles of misery
perched on trains
like birds
with clipped wings
who only fly
in their dreams
but decide to search
out the promise of
a better life at any cost
which of my
careful word choices
make a difference
to scorched tongues
that can no longer
even form a whisper
let alone cry out for help
in a desolate desert
there are no
flights on 747's
for a people
with only prayers
without papers
thick with words
that legitimize them
in an illegal world
full of legalized criminals
that form tempests
to tease out fear and
who year after year
think up new ways to hate
at the same time taking
even a person's last breath
if it benefits their profits
at what checkpoint
do my words become
more than arrows
sharp in their bite
or mere criticisms of the "Right"
still not hitting the target
or putting an end
to this war

no consolation for Lidia

by Norma Liliana Valdez

triple digit

insatiable rivers

desert canyons

empty bottle

scrubland coyotes

abandon Mother

hand identified

silence ruptures

My land—Not my land

No one owns Mother Earth;
only she can own herself,
restore herself, renew her being.

Hurried steps travel south then north,
greet fire burning in the hearts of the people;
travelers sing without fear of a land that knows them well.

Our spirits cross mountains and valleys,
travel to new beginnings,
gather beneath surviving trees,
breathe the healing evening breeze,
caress the scent of ancient roses in bloom.

At night, the land dreams of eternal movement,
sleeps beneath a watchful moon etched in endless desert sky;
flowing birds nest, revive the dream at dawn--
distant shadows murmur “Adiós.”

Gentle streams guide the journey to other realms during prayer:
“Sacred Mother, nourish our beings, nurture our souls, lead us home.”

Nancy Lorenza Green
Written June 11, 2011 during Odilia Galvan’s workshop at the Our Spirit...Our Reality Conference

Open the Borders

by Graciela Vega

Europe opened the borders to itself
German families reunited
when the walls went down
Atzimba lighted her flame
then each candle on her altar
she whispered
saints speak to the Congress
guardian angels
maybe soon she could soothe
her mother's wrinkled skin
Open the border America
to yourself
or write laws with dignity
Amir wondered when people
would stop second guessing him
hadn't he sworn allegiance to the USA
hadn't he translated in Iraq
half of his family buried
the other half
maybe soon he could hug his wife
A long journey from El Salvador
Anna waited for her child
to be born
a cry
one push
a country where any child could dream of becoming President
a cry
one push
warm milk
a child and a dream born
Listen to the guardian angels
Open yourself America to yourself

The Pass-Through Behind Robert's House
by Andrea Mauk

Robert's house is gone now,
wouldn't even know it had been there
hidden in the shadows of the downtown skyline
except for the block fence on the side,
two feet tall
spray painted "725 South."
Doesn't matter.
I remember every detail,
etched in my artist's eyes,
from that day I took a walk.
Behind Robert's house,
beyond the ball and socket fuses,
the stalled out DeSoto
his sister's dog used to jump in and out of,
was a two story apartment,
which had been boarded up for
I don't know, maybe forever
because it was posted "unsafe."
Don't ask me how it got that way,
it looked sturdy as anything,
and in the middle of the moss-green structure
was a pass-through to the alley:
to another world.
I wanted to paint a heart
on that shaded archway of brick, R.G. + A.M.
and come back all grown up
to see if it survived
better than we did. I never guessed
that when I arrived, there'd be
nothing left that I hadn't carried
inside of me.
How could I have walked the alley
all by myself? I don't think you
call that brave because
everyone knows that bad things
can happen to young girls in alleys,
but I did it,
I walked it on the way to the
Kim's Market to buy a Suzie-Q.
There were tiny structures,
patched tin-roofed storage sheds,
looked like kids had built them as castle-forts,
postage stamp apartments, holes in the walls
covered with cardboard,
the sound of sizzling, the smell of manteca,
beans frying until they danced their skins off,
and la música de la Norteña
serenading the abandoned chow mein container
from Dirty Mary's,
garbage strewn across the alley,
a sea of jewels, shimmering broken glass.
How could they live? The twin beds
almost wider than the houses. And
through the open windows that
inhaled and exhaled the gritty Phoenix
heat, I heard conversations flying,
joyful laughter escaping into the world.
My mouth fell open, my eyes grew wide
back there in the alley, on the fringe,
amidst invisible spaces
in houses that nobody would believe existed
if I tried to explain,
there were people who smiled and made the best of it.
How could that be? Don't they need something,
something more? Air conditioning?
Cable TV? An address?
At times I tell myself
it was just a dream, but
I know it was real because
I touched it, left fingerprints.
The memory still lingers,
comes creeping back to me
in the middle of the night, when
my heart flutters and cold sweats attack,
when my eyes spring open
to a sea of inky darkness.
First comes the percussion of spattering grease
then the strumming of guitars,
ballads going out to
the ones they left behind
en el otro lado.
I wonder sometimes if people still live back there,
mostly I question how we let them,
or if Sheriff Joe ever rode in on his pink-saddled horse
and gathered them up in the name of justice.
I suppose
I really wasn't that brave because
I never went back to check.


Odilia Galván Rodríguez

photo credit: Dan Vera

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is a poet/activist and healer. She has been involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their creative and spiritual voice for over two decades. Odilia is a moderator and one of the founding members of Poets Responding to SB 1070. She also co-hosts "Poetry Express" a weekly open mike with featured poets in Berkeley, CA.

Norma Liliana Valdez

Norma Liliana Valdez arrived to California from Mexico in her mother’s pregnant belly. Her poetry seeks to disentangle the tradition of women’s oppression and pain through the personal intersection of the psyche with the page. She is an alumna of the Voices of our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) writing workshop for writers of color and the Writing Program at UC Berkeley Extension. Her work has appeared online in The Acentos Review, As It Ought To Be, La Bloga, and Spiral Orb. She holds a Master’s degree in Counseling from San Francisco State University and works with first-generation, underrepresented students as a community college counselor.

Nancy Lorenza GreenNancy Lorenza Green, M.Ed. is an Afro-Chicana teaching and performing artist from El Paso/Cd. Juárez Mexico who uses music, creative writing, photography and spoken word as mediums of communication and cultural education. Nancy is the author of Crucified River/Rio Crucificado, a collection of poems published by Mouthfeel Press that focus on the murder of over 500 women in Cd. Juárez and the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children who have died crossing the border.

Her poetry and photography have been published in BorderSenses, Chrysalis, Mujeres de Maíz Zines, Mezcla, and soon to be published in the Sowing the Seeds anthology. She has recorded four music CDs. Nancy has performed at the Border Book Festival and has presented at the VSA Arts International Conference and the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum. Nancy is a member of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture and Juntos Art Association.

She can be reached at nancygreen9@yahoo.com 915-564-9218 or visit her webpage.

Graciela Vega-CarbajalGraciela Vega-Carbajal is a mother, educator, cultural worker and artist. She lives and works in Watsonville, California where she invests time with her students and her community. Originally from Purepero, Michoacán, Mexico and the third generation to migrate to Watsonville, Graciela enjoys remembering and practicing cultural traditions from Michoacán like egg confetti decorations, knitting, crocheting, story telling, restoring saints and painting.

She has recently completed training with the ISMKEE Institute Teachers as Makers in the DIY Challenge designing curriculum for the Open Educational Resource Commons focusing on the Rights of a Child and reflective writing curriculum. As a writing teacher, Graciela Vega believes in writing with a purpose whether it is regarding current events that impact the lives of her students or writing with a global perspective.

In March of 2011 Ms. Graciela Vega ended a one-year co-directorship with the UC California Central California Writing Project. Through her leadership she helped the UCSC CCWP move their Summer Writing Institutes to a more accessible location. Last summer the writing institute was held in San Juan Bautista where teachers from the tri-county were able to apply and attend. Through collaborative efforts the writing institute recruited a heterogeneous group of teacher writers featuring Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs as a keynote speaker in our closing ceremony.

In 1974 Graciela was brought to Santa Ana, California and year that would change her life and lives of her family forever. She still remembers the promise she has yet to fulfill of bringing a petaquilla (trunk) of nail polish to her relatives in Purepero. Her mother Serapia Cendejas blouse artesana was her first teacher who taught her to discern colors from periwinkle blue to sky blue, tender green and Mexican flag green. Each color had a story associated with it. While her mother cross-stitched and put embroidered blouses for traveling salesman, Graciela remembers pricking her finger and attempting to learn to cross-stitch under the Michoacan sun. Little did she know she would come to use her color knowledge on canvas at Scripps College studying Studio Art and studying cinema. In 1993 Graciela Vega-Carbajal majored in Film /Video Production and Gender and Feminist Studies at Pitzer College.

Knowledge of colors and the strength of stories helped Graciela survive the culture clash she encountered at school as a new immigrant. Upon her arrival to Santa Ana, California she remembers her supportive elementary teachers at Lincoln Elementary and her fourth grade teacher but she remembers the challenges presented by being a “WAB or wetback” or being a resident without a green card. Along her schooling, Graciela met many supportive teachers who inspired her to dream of obtaining a college education. In 1982 her family moved to Watsonville with her maternal grandparents, there she learned to appreciate the strong work ethic by young teens, mothers and fathers in the fields and canneries. In high school, Michael Sullivan and Gabriella Gutierrez Muhs invested their energies and mentored Graciela in organizing and writing.

After completing her undergraduate work, Graciela began teaching for Center for Employment Training, a non-profit in Watsonville immersing her students in Business English and teaching writing for the General Education Diploma. She received her teacher credential from CSU Monterey Bay in 1997 and then when on to study for a Masters of Education.

Ms. Vega continues to work with local students and their families to bring positive change to their lives whenever possible. “Despite all the problems that present themselves before us we must be the light that shines for our students, we must create spaces in our classroom where students can hold on to hope and continue to believe in their dreams,” closes Graciela Vega.

Andrea Garcia MaukAndrea Garcia Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She currently calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction, poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won
awards. Several of her poems and a memoir will be included in an upcoming anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality. She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written online extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry.


Anonymous said...

As you note, Sedano, "a representation firm, Dystel & Goderic, announced it will lend a hand, for a fee, to their stable of writers curious about entering the self-publishing game via e-books as opposed to physical books."

There's controversy about this:

Nell said...

Upon reading your prose poem The Pass-Through Behind Robert's House I feel thoroughly fed with multi-sensory stimuli. And I am left wondering what happened to dear A.M., "the memory" of which "still lingers" "comes creeping back"
"in the middle of the night, when
my heart flutters and cold sweats attack,
when my eyes spring open
to a sea of inky darkness".