Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tips from Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison was amazing. Warm, funny, smart, real--all you'd wish for.

She gave an impassioned speech, urging us all to tell the stories that won't leave us alone, the ones we *must* tell.

(I don't think it's a coincidence that all weekend I spent spilling out page after page about my parents.)

She said rage and revenge are good emotion to spark a story, but they won't sustain the work.

Here are a few others things she said:

* The Missouri Review is publishing the best fiction these days.

* She encourages writers to publish with small presses (she did for 20 years before Bastard Out of Carolina hit the big time).

* (quoting Kevin, who took notes--thanks, Kevin): "She did much of her own publicity for Bastard by doing a bookstore tour in multiple cities. She feels this effort helped the book take-off. She went to on her own train ticket, sleeping on friends' sofas. She feels without this, the book would have not done nearly as well. The publicity department didn't help at all; indeed she was at risk, because the bookstores charge the publishers for these evenings. By the time the bills started coming in it was a hit, so she was okay, but she otherwise might have been personally liable as she'd gone out on her own. She said she'd 'cashed the ad check,' . . . to pay for her expenses, and she 'raced with her head down for six weeks,' which jump-started the novel's success. Later, when the book was a hit, for the paperback, they set up a very posh reading series, where they kept her at great hotels, but in the beginning she was all on her own."

* (quoting Kevin:) "She believes that, while the publishing houses provide 'editors,' they aren't very good. But the surprise was that she does believe there are a few good editors who have a special gift (with they eye, not the ear) who can be invaluable to a writer. She specifically mentioned three of them. The one she mentioned with most respect was Joy Johannessen, whom she thinks has been responsible for one major novel after another, especially in the nineties. . . . After Dorothy became successful, she requested that her new book be edited by Joy, to the tune of $25,000. The other two she mentioned were Sydelle Kramer of Susan Rabiner's literary agency, and Shannon Ravenel, associated with Algonquin Books and the Best American Series."

From the mouth of Dorothy to your ears.
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