RIP Harper Lee

Harper Lee died in her sleep yesterday at the age of 89.

 

No question she was a noted southern writer, known world-wide for her classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. It won a Pulitzer in 1961. It remains a bestseller, with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted the “best Novel of the Century” in a poll by the Library Journal.

 

George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. It recognizes individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interest of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given by the United States government for “outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts.”

 

I take a special interest in her because she spent her freshman year in college at my alma mater, Huntingdon College, before transferring to the University of Alabama where she studied law but, interestingly, never graduated.

 

Huntingdon’s president wrote:

 “It is an honor and a privilege to call Nelle Harper Lee a Huntingdon College alumna. Ms. Lee came to Huntingdon from the small town of Monroeville, Alabama, in 1944, twelve years after her sister, Alice, attended in 1932. Sixteen years later, To Kill A Mockingbird was published and made her a literary icon. Her novels call us to consider the reality of evil and the important choices we make in life, presenting examples of goodness and courage that stand firm in the face of that reality. Particularly in her second published novel, her words resonate with evidence of personal and social holiness that reflect her own Methodist heritage, which she held dear. Huntingdon celebrates with the world a life well lived, as well as words and stories that will live on.”
President J. Cameron West

 

One of my Huntingdon classmates was from Monroeville and knew the icon personally. In my convoluted way of thinking, this made me one step closer to the legendary author.

 

A second book, Go Set a Watchman, was released in published 2015. amidst much controversy. The State of Alabama found the timing strange (less than three months after the death of her sister who handled her affairs). The HR Department for the State launched an investigation as to whether Ms. Lee was competent to make the decision to release the book written more than half a century earlier. The investigation found that the claims of coercion and elder abuse were unfounded.

 

Ms. Lee lived in an assisted living facility and was nearly deaf and blind. She will be missed by the literary community.

RIP

Harper Lee

April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016

~ Kay

 

What do you write?

 

 

Blogs?

Lyrics?

Music?

Poetry?

Novels?

Novellas?

Shorts stories?

All of the above?

I think most writers dabble in most if not all of these areas from time to time. If I’m working on a novel and feel stuck, I might stop and write (or more likely start)  a short story, for instance. I guess it’s a brain break.

I suppose the voices in our heads tell us what to write and when.

I’m thinking about writing something completely new (to me)–a chapter book. Not a chapter book like a child’s bedtime story, but a chapter book where chapters are released one at a time online. Poe and Hawthorne and even Mark Twain did released some of their work a chapter at a time (not online, of course).

I was contacted by a company that facilitates this and was intrigued. I’ve thought about it frequently since.

Advantages:

  • Accountability — If I had a deadline and a readership I’d have to get the work done.
  • Create a readership – This is nice if blog readers turn into future book readers
  • Income — No need to elaborate on this one.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Each piece of work would need a distinctive cover. These may be purchased for not too much. It wouldn’t be bad if releasing a novel chapter by chapter, but if releasing a short story every month, the income would need to be sufficient to cover the cost of lots of new covers.
  • They don’t provide editors. No matter how many times I read my own work, I won’t catch all of my own errors. No one can see her own mistakes. Beta readers won’t catch all of them either. A lack of good editing has been my biggest problem with self-publishing all along. Editors can be expensive and the quality varies. This isn’t really self-publishing, but it has a lot of the same characteristics.

 

So, what are your thoughts on this? Have you considered publishing a chapter book? Would you buy a book chapter by chapter once a month or so if the chapters were inexpensive? I’d really like feedback on this topic.

-Kay

Writing Partners–How Do you Screen Them?

 

 

I got a random e-mail this week from someone I didn’t know (or I didn’t think I knew–I never know for sure these days).

At the top, it had the real name, pen name and another name of a someone I had “met” in an online class in 2010. Then it said, “How did you wind up getting associated … with this tawdry affair?” This was followed by his first name which is what made me think I might know him. WHAT tawdry affair??? Surely I’d know if I’d been involved in any kind of affair. I hope so!

The … said my picture was on the book review I did for the author’s book in 2011. Say what? It’s 2016 on my calendar, Pal. What’s up with this?

I was still scratching my head when I got a notice from Amazon that someone had left a comment on my comment about the same review. It said:

3 days ago

The author of the book reviewed … was recently convicted with her husband…of planting evidence to commit a “perfect crime” against the head of the local PTA. Truth is stranger than fiction.”

Okay. Something was up. I had to run some errands and couldn’t research it, which game me time to think about it.

First of all, what would make the person who e-mailed me think I had anything to do with anything other than reading and reviewing a book? What made him think I even knew the author. As it turns out, I did…several years ago.

The author in question and I took the same online class in 2010. I don’t remember all of the details, but we somehow hit it off in class and decided to exchange chapters and work together after the class was over. Though we wrote completely different genres, we were at about the same point in our writing journey and in writing our novels.

As we exchanged our chapters, we also chit-chatted via e-mail. She was a young stay-at-home mom in southern California. She’d practiced law before her children were born, was into yoga, and her husband was an attorney.

Her book was a thriller about committing the perfect crime. It had some sickish twists, but what can I say? I just had a short story published in a horror anthology.

About the time we finished working together, Hubby had a conference in Las Vegas. I think it was scheduled to start on a Thursday. I mentioned it to her and she asked what I’d be doing while he was in meetings. When I told her I’d just be hanging out, she said she’d fly down for a couple of days so we could meet. She got an airline ticket, made a hotel reservation, etc. I thought this a little odd, but we writers are an odd lot.

The Sunday before we were scheduled to depart for Vegas, I rushed Hubby to the ER. They found a mass in his belly and had him in the operating room before I could call the kids and his mom. His sister, who lived only minutes from the hospital, was the only one who got there before they started the procedure. He was in the hospital for ten days and easily could’ve died. I only left him twice to come home and pick up a few things. Both times, I was called back.

Hubby is a physician. He knew he was lucky to be alive. He also knew he wasn’t out of the woods. I was scared to death. Everyone was so supportive, but my memory of telling my author friend was that she got upset we were canceling our trip to Vegas. We were doing this all by e-mail (I don’t think we ever talked on the phone). I remember thinking she somehow missed he was in the hospital fighting for his life. When I e-mailed her stating it that clearly, she said she’d already booked her flight and hotel.

I said I was sorry about the trip and that was the last time we communicated for about nine months.

She self-published her book, and one day out of the blue a signed copy arrived in the mail. I was happy she’d had the courage to follow her dream and publish her book. My preference is a traditional publishing experience.

I read the book (which, of course I’d already read) and reviewed it on Amazon. I sent her an e-mail wishing her good luck with the book and that was the last contact we had.

That was MY experience with her. But, I surmised from the e-mail and Amazon message something else was going on. I did a little research and found plenty of information from the LA Times and other sources. A 20/20 segment was done on the story–never good news!

The story in a nutshell is my former writing partner and her husband got angry at another parent at their son’s school. After a year of harassing the parent, her husband planted drugs and pot in the woman’s car, then called the police anonymously and said he’d witnessed her driving erratically. The police pretty quickly surmised the drugs didn’t belong to the parent and they began to build a case against my former writing partner and her husband.

They were indicted. She plead guilty with a plea deal; he had a mistrial, but was found guilty in a subsequent trial. They divorced and he was ordered to pay her $8k a month child support and $4k a month spousal support. He filed for bankruptcy and moved in with his parents. She changed her name…twice. They changed the children’s last name.

They each have to serve about six months in jail, will be on three years probation, and have to do 100 hours of community service. She was disbarred. His law license was suspended. She moved to Cuba. (How do US Citizens get to move to Cuba?)

The parent filed a civil suit, and earlier this week a jury awarded her $5.7 million. The husband admitted guilt and apologized during the civil trial. According to everything I’ve read, the author didn’t attend the civil trial (she’s in Cuba, remember?), never apologized or showed remorse.

What kind-of sort-of freaks me out is all of this was going on while she and I were working on our books together. Of course, she never mentioned anything to me, and I never picked up anything was amiss. When I finish the who-dun-it series I’m doing now, I’m switching genres! I’m obviously no good at picking up clues.

Maybe, while living in Cuba, (still don’t understand that) she can write a best seller, sell the movie rights, and pay the parent the $5.7 million.

~ Kay

 

 

Let’s Write

Writers know the basic rule of writing is to write every day. Write something every day.

That is easier said than done. What’s really hard is to write on a “writing” project.

For example, in the last week, I’ve written a couple of blog posts, a speech, a workshop, a murder mystery, some committee projects…you get the idea. That doesn’t count the 30 some odd e-mails I answer and/or write every day or snail mail correspondence I do for personal, volunteer, or other reasons. It’s always something.

So when does a writer work on her current project?

When I don’t do it for a few days I loose momentum, I sometimes even loose my voice, I often loose where I was going with the story…it is so detrimental not to work on it daily.

I had lunch recently with a young, beginning writer with more talent in her little finger than I have in my whole body, yet I was trying to give her tips on the profession. This was my first tip–write on your project every day. Even if it is a few lines, write something to keep you connected.

Now, Kay, follow  your own advice.

~ Kay