Tag Archives: Nothing much

Milestone: First pair of reading glasses

I’ve never much liked milestones. I know some people love them, live by them, use them to congratulate themselves on their accomplishments and admonish themselves to work harder in the future. Milestones to me mark one thing: the passing of time. And time is one of those few things I can’t control in my life. My mother’s retirement, my son’s departure from primary school, my husband’s first grey hair, his last brown hair. (My hair has miraculously gone blonde!) Last month, I got my first pair of reading glasses. Most of the people I tell this to have no sympathy for me, after all, I’ve had perfect vision for almost half a century.

When I was twenty-three and teaching high school, I was pretty sure if I wore glasses the kids would shut up and listen to me, so I bought one of those fake pairs. For the hour I wore them, it didn’t help. Alas. And the lenses became smudged and couldn’t come clean. That was it for that.

But now I have reached that milestone and find myself trying on 1.25 reading glasses any time I can find them in the checkout line. I need a pair by my computer, next to my bed, by the kitchen table, and in my purse for menus. And they are always smudged.

sacramento editor, Robin Martin
My first pair of reading glasses. I have arrived.

For me, this is significant. I cannot go back. Working harder won’t help me here. I didn’t do anything to get me to this place. Out of my control, it caused me severe panic for about three weeks. But it’s starting to settle in. I’m starting to accept this as a milestone, and maybe even like it. I find that it signifies for me an arrival, an organic movement into a place of experience and wisdom. Look at me. I wear readers. I’ve arrived.

Hackers are the antagonists of this story

Glenn is the hero.

You probably didn’t notice that my site was down again last week.  I don’t understand why anyone would want to hack little old me, but whatever. (Hey, while I’m under, you might as well…) Now I have a little facelift!  This is one aspect of freelancing that I really enjoy– no, not the hacking part– but the fact that I get to hire other creative freelancers and work with them.  Thanks again, Glenn Weatherson, freelance web designer, for being my web-guy and dealing with all the rigamarole at Word Press.

Sacramento editor, publishing



Wordle: Better than solitaire

Introduced to me as a way to check for a writer’s overuse of words (like interesting or quickly), Wordle is way more fun than it is practical.  A word-cloud generator, you “paste in a bunch of text” in the window and hit “randomize” and your words appear in an artistic design, a word cloud, with the most used words in the largest size font.

So, when you need a break from whatever it is you’re working on, plug a poem, or a resume (I did one of each) into Wordle and get an artistic boost.

Click here for my resume:  resume better 2a

Click here for my poem:  wild spearamint poem cloud

Do you Goodreads?

Do you keep track of your reading via Goodreads?

Why do you do it?

Have you tried to remember all of the books you’ve ever read?

Who are you following?

Do you write reviews? Are you tight with your stars?

I do it sporadically.

Because I want to know what my friends are reading, and as a writer/editor, feel it is part of a necessary social networking presence.

I have remembered back for quite a few, but have never taken the time to try and remember all; doubt I could.

I follow Daniel Grandbois. I’m not sure what it means to follow someone on Goodreads- maybe you don’t know them well enough to befriend them but you still want to know what they’re reading?

I don’t usually write reviews, but I tell people they can find my reviews at San Francisco Book Review.

I am very tight with my stars. Harper Lee, John Irving– they get 5. That to me is hard to achieve. I’ve noticed others seem rather generous with stars, or else they are madly in love with everything they read.

Reviewing Books

I just submitted my newest review to Sacramento and San Francisco Book Review:

It is The Face in the Mirror: Writers Reflect on Their Dreams of Youth and the Reality of Age, Edited by Victoria Zackheim. It is an anthology of reflective essays written by totally intelligent authors. My favorite line from this book:

“At the very least, my parents wanted a child who was normal, but what they got was a writer.”

Each book I review I add to my collection. It is in this way that I’ve obtained some books I’m all too eager to give away-like Robert Olmstead’s Far Bright Star and the British mob-book disaster Faces. Other books I’ve reviewed, of course, I’m thrilled to be able to lend, just lend-with promise of return-to my writer and reader friends, like Updike’s Maples Stories. I might not lend my Last Night in Twisted River pre-release copy. What if something happens to it?

I am always on the lookout on the Books Available Lists for high quality books for the 7-11 year old set, but without reading a review first it is hard to gauge by the title. Aha- I am so helping other parents by reading them first! I have enjoyed reading children’s books with my son, including the delightful Max Said Yes! and the intriguing Harry Houdini for Kids, and even ask him for his assistance when composing the review.

I did get a bit gun shy when I chose a title from the children’s section that turned out to be a novel for the middle years. It’s not that it was bad for what it was, but it was not what I enjoy reading, is not a genre I am familiar with, and almost got me in trouble with my 9-year old. (The young male protagonist sets a prurient goal to see a woman naked). Egad! I’m so not ready to go there.

On Deck:

For On-Line: Mike Croft’s Down Deep. This is a wild card. When I ordered it, I thought it was written by Mike Croft the managing editor of Narrative Magazine, but alas, this is some British dude’s nom de plume. Wish me luck with that one.

For January: Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies by Stewart Copeland. I love Rock and Roll Biographies and have always had a big crush on Copeland. This oughta be good.

For February:  Hot Springs by Geoffrey Becker and Tin House. Anything Tin House is awesome.

Publishing in a dollar-driven market

With Sara From Alaska by Shushannah Walshe released today, and Going Rogue: An American Life, by Sarah Palin being released next week, it makes, at my count, 13 books on the subject available to Amazon customers. Thank goodness the big publishers just keep buying the same book over and over. This is another pretty sad commentary on the state of the maxi-publishers.

What’s happening with the fiction market?

Back on July 16, I began actively pitching a novel that I had been working on at some level since somewhere around September of the year before as a freelance/associate agent with AHLM. I love this novel, and believe in it and in the talents of the author. I pitched to a targeted list of editors at the largest houses, and still, over three months later, the author and I await the final words from the many who requested the manuscript.

Anyone who is in this business will tell you that rejection is a part of it. Believe me, as a small-time short story writer myself, one who submits to lit mags, journals and other media markets on occasion, I know. I’ve written briefly about rejection notes in this blog (as all of us have).

Rejection on a first novel is not unusual. And in a strange way it would be easier to accept the “sorry” notices, if the editors didn’t seem to be fighting with their editorial acquisitions boards for the purchase.

What is a “success on their list”?

What size audience is large enough?

I wonder how many copies of To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee sold out of the gate. I should be able to find that out somehow. If you know, will you tell me?

To Kill a Mockingbird
1982 edition

The latest rejections:

“Hi, Robin, Sorry to miss your call—we were in a launch meeting for the afternoon, and it happens that I’ve got laryngitis this week so am staying off the phone anyway! But thanks for following up on this, though I’m very sorry to say I’m going to have to disappoint—there was a lot I really liked about the writing here, and I felt the story was a compelling one. I’ve gotten some other reads on the manuscript, though, and ultimately everyone seems to feel that the novel’s audience will end up being a bit too small to make the project a success on our list. I’m genuinely sorry not to have a better word, especially about something that I liked, but in the current market we’re just being really selective. I do hope another house feels differently, though, and I wish you and the author much success moving forward with the novel. Thanks again for thinking of me for it and for giving me the time to share it with others—I hope we’ll be able to get together on something else in the near future. All my best…”

Here’s another:

“Hi Robin, I have taken a look, and I think the novel is extraordinary. While I hate to pass on this, I’m really not acquiring fiction right now, and I don’t think it’s helping you for me to hem and haw over this when I know my list is leading in another direction. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting this long, and I wish you both the best of luck in placing it. Perhaps we can connect on some nonfiction in the future? Best…”

I respect these editors for reading and appreciating the novel, and do recognize that acquisitions are often out of their hands. Can they sell a million copies of this book to AMWAY? Probably not. They must also be very frustrated by the direction of literary publishing.

The needle on the compass is pointing towards indie presses for fiction; this should be good for readers and writers except that it feels like taking a yet another vow of poverty.