Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!
She has been writing ever since.
The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.
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When it all comes plummeting down – what do you do? When there seem so many small fires to be put out. And all around you people are having dramas – then turning to you for help. What do you do?
I just want to hide under the warm, plump duvet (a European eiderdown) and never come out. But I don’t have that luxury.
How do you keep your head – “when all around you seem to be losing theirs and blaming it on you.” As Kipling put it so well. “… if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too. If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…”
But I digress.
So, how do you write when you’re snowed under?
How come other writers seem to have it all organized? Able to write at the same time each day, without distraction. Able to churn out book after book….. I know that writer-mothers of young children seem to find the time to write their books – while the kids are napping or at school, waiting at soccer practice or for the laundry cycle to finish. My writer friends with full time jobs find a way. Sue Ann Jaffarian is a paralegal, Pamela Samuels Young an attorney. They write before going to work, in their lunch hour and at weekends.
Before I ever get to the office, the phone calls and urgent emails start early in the morning. And I can’t remember when I last stopped for lunch. For the last couple of years, I often work 6 or 7 days a week. So where am I going wrong?
(As Anthony Newley’s song “What Kind of Fool Am I?” floats around my head…)
Since my husband died so unexpectedly, I have been working day in and day out to save the Woman’s Club of Hollywood from being turned into an anonymous block of condominiums, instead of the charming Spanish-style historic property where Jean Harlow and Douglas Fairbanks went to school and where Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and a host of Golden Era celebrities helped served the Hollywood community for over 110 years. So I feel it’s worth saving. Worth fighting for. But at what cost – to me.
So here I am – an author, a writer who has so little time to write. One of my publishers has just asked me to do a new version of one of my Hollywood books. “How long do I have,” I asked, trying not to panic.
I’ve stayed up all night to finish a book by the deadline. Getting the copy sent off to London by eight in the morning – that is four o’clock in the afternoon in London time. But I did it. I’ve arisen at 5 am, in the dark, to get a couple of hours writing in before the day starts. But it doesn’t last. I get too tired, then find myself nodding off over the computer keys. And how is it that I seem to gain weight, when I hardly ever have time to eat? That’s just plain unfair!
Goodness! This sounds like whining. Not my intention. More a ‘Dear Abby, How do I get off this hamster wheel?” Or: I’m a writer – get me out of here!
I have so many voices in my head that need to be heard – or read. So many books to write, screenplays to finish. All the characters that float around my imagination, hoping that I will turn them into words on a page for readers to discover. All clamoring, ‘Me too! Don’t forget about me…” And Lottie Topaz has been so very patient with me, waiting for me to finish her second volume and share her emerging adventures.
The people in my head, my wonderful characters that I can breath life into, they all have a song to sing – a story for me to tell.
So why are there so many things, big and small, going on in life that need my attention at the present? Am I avoiding something? Why can’t I be more disciplined and just focus on my writing. Ignore the pleas for help. Just tell people to get lost. Leave me alone.
Maybe I’m just going through a phase…
Although this week, after what seems like an eternity, the court trial starts on behalf of the Woman’s Club trying to release itself of heavy financial burdens unfairly foisted on it by nefarious beings. So that will settle one long chapter in its saga. And hopefully offer me some respite.
Looking back, I could have taken a different path. Would it have been easier? Probably. But look how much I have learned, people I have met – characters and stories I have discovered.
But still, right now, what I’d really like to do is dive back under the warmth of my duvet – for a while.
Know what I mean?
Have you ever tried to get a story accepted into a writing contest or juried anthology? Wouldn’t you love having a covert resource who can give you a competitive edge? If so, then read on because I am going to share with you my secrets for getting your work published.
First, some background. Several years ago, I tried to get a short story accepted into a Sisters In Crime anthology. I wrote what I thought was a good story that fit the theme and technical requirements. I ran it though a few critique groups to help me polish it. When I got the notification that the piece wasn’t accepted, it broke my heart. I made it my mission to get my work accepted into the following anthology. The result: my story “By Anonymous” made it into Last Exit To Murder, published two years later. I succeeded in more ways than one; having a story in a prestigious anthology helped me win a publishing contract for my novels.
The experience taught me that it takes a lot more than just writing a good story to get your work into a competitive publication.
I THE MORE SPECIFIC, THE BETTER
It’s hard enough to figure out what editors will consider ‘good’ or worthy of publication, but it’s even harder when they don’t clearly define what they want. If getting published is your goal, your odds are always better with a single genre competition and a clearly defined theme. Focus on competitions with a limited scope. ‘Stories under 500 words’ is vague , but ‘Heartwarming stories about rescued animals’ is more specific.
II READ THE SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES CAREFULLY AND BELIEVE THEM
Every contest or anthology will issue submission guidelines that contain vital information. Guidelines begin with an explanation of what the stories should contain or be about. For example, mystery anthologies generally want stories that include at least one murder or serious crime. If there is a theme, the guidelines will often state how the theme should be incorporated. Remember: the more specific the requirements, the easier it is to figure out what the editors want. Pay attention to technical information such as word count, page set-up, method of submission, and deadline for entries. Take that information seriously; consider them demands, not requests.
III LEARN FROM THE PAST
Writing contests and anthologies are often sponsored by established organizations. Unless the sponsor is new, go back and read their previous publications. Determine what type of writing appeals to them. If everything they’ve published is dark and esoteric, your hilarious page-turner probably won’t get accepted. If the mysteries tend to be cozy, save your gruesome piece for another publication.
The sponsor’s website can provide invaluable help. Search online for any information about the selection process or editing of past competitions. I researched the Sisters In Crime L.A. website archives and located an old interview with the editors of an earlier anthology. All of them agreed that stories about previously unknown aspects of the city were more interesting than those that focused on familiar places and events. The anthology selections supported that. Which brings me to the next point:
IV AVOID THE OBVIOUS
If the theme is U.S. landmarks, leave the most popular choices to ‘Family Feud’ and go with something less familiar. There are two reasons for this: First, many writers will select something famous like the Hollywood sign or the Statue of Liberty. Since editors may want one story based on that location there’s more competition. Or they might get bored reading story after story about the same place and reject them all. Secondly, as already stated, stories about unknown or unusual places and events appeal to editors. Think how omnipresent the White House has been in films, but we vividly remember Mt. Rushmore in “North by Northwest” or Devil’s Tower in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” because they stand out due to their uniqueness.
V WORK IT, WORK IT, WORK IT!
Everything I’ve shared with you so far will give any writer a competitive edge. The rest is up to you, though. You have to write a unique story. Start early, as soon as the announcement comes out. Brainstorm a few possible themes and work on them until you have a strong idea for a story. Take every advantage you have. I submitted one story to that first anthology although two submissions were permitted. For the next anthology, I finished my story months in advance and decided to write another before the deadline. I’m glad I did; the first piece was rejected, but the second one made it into the anthology.
Will any of my tips guarantee your story will get published? Of course not, but I assure you it will increase your chances of success. Good luck!
Jacqueline Vick spent her childhood plotting ways to murder her Barbie doll. Mystery writing proved a more productive outlet. She is the author of over twenty novels and short stories including the Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery series.
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I have a confession to make. I work, think and play best to…silence.
I know, I know. I’ve tried. I had Foster make a compilation of super sappy music for those moments when the protagonist was going through an emotional moment. You know. Those heart-wrenching songs that you listened to in high school after breaking up with your boyfriend that made you feel as if someone understood your pain. (Not realizing that this was mere child’s play compared to the traumas that came with adult life.)
It helped set the mood a little, but I found that I was turning on Brian Eno’s ambient music instead. Something soothing, but not enough to put one to sleep.
The problem with meditative music is that it goes best with meditating, not the frenetic thinking that goes with working out a new plot.
When I listen to music, which is not often, the songs make me think about when I first heard that song, or what a good guitar rift that was. I’ll pretty much listen to anything except pop music and anything with a thumping beat that makes my ears ring. Electronic dance music? Not a chance.
What about you? Is there music that brings out your writing productivity?