Stephanie Elizondo Griest offers the following services:
— Phone consultations on all aspects of the publishing business, from query letters to book proposals, agents, marketing, and promotion
— Copy editing, line editing, and conceptual editing of manuscripts, proposals, and query letters
— Private, 8-week, online memoir writing classes. Here is the format:
ONLINE MEMOIR WRITING CLASS
Each week, Stephanie will email you a PDF of a lecture on one of the following topics:
— Mining your memories – Ethics in Memoir – Plot & Theme – Character – Description – Dialogue – Point of View/Voice – Setting/Pacing – Revision – The Publishing Business (Agents, Book Proposals, Query Letters, etc)
Stephanie will read and critique up to 6 pages of your work each week, for a total of 50 pages by the end of the course. These pages can either be from a memoir that you are working on, and/or the optional writing exercises she will include with each lecture. Should any questions arise about the lecture, you may email them to Stephanie, and she will address them in the next week’s lecture. She will also be available for one 60-minute phone consultation whenever you’d like, to discuss your work.
Some quick and helpful tips from Stephanie on …
In order to sell a work of non-fiction (i.e. a memoir, biography, travelogue, How-To book), you must write a book proposal. It helps to think of it more as a “business plan” than a literary creation. The goal of this document is to convince a publisher that this book will sell lots of copies. Book proposals are very long and involved documents. (My proposal for Around the Bloc was over 100 pages!)
Book proposals consist of the following parts:
A one to four page description of the project.
A paragraph that includes the number of sections, chapters, and pages to be included in the book, along with any “Front Matter” or “Back Matter,” such as photos, maps, glossary, bibliography, index, etc.
C. Competition Analysis
A brief “book report” on works similar to yours, along with why yours will be better.
D. Market Analysis
Who exactly will buy your book? Be specific, such as “Mexican-Americans, age 16-35” along with a Census count of that population. If it’s a travel book, find out how many Americans visit that country each year, how many students study its language, etc.
E. Promotion Plan
How will you find those people? Elaborate on radio, TV, Internet, and print outlets as well as bookstores, college speaking tours, etc. Read Jacqueline Deval’s Publicize Your Book! for ideas. This is one of the most important sections of the proposal, and should be as detailed as possible. Pretend you have an unlimited budget and oodles of time.
F. Author Biography
No modesty here – go off.
Table of Contents.
H. Outline Defined
Brief description of each chapter.
I. Sample Chapter
One or two of your best chapters (not necessarily the first).
J. Accompanying Materials
Author photo, previously published clips, any articles that have been written about you or your subject matter, etc.
An excellent resource is Michael Larsen’s How To Write a Book Proposal … I know at least five writers who swear by it, myself included.
A. Consult your personal network
B. Find books similar to yours, and see which agent they thank in their Acknowledgments
C. Consult Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents: Who They Are! What They Want! and How to Win Them Over! Not only are the agents carefully pre-screened for this directory, Herman includes such revealing information as their hobbies, favorite books, former occupations, etc, so that you get a sense of who they are. When I conducted my search, I tried to find someone with whom I actually had something in common — and couldn’t be happier with the results.
Here are some resources that keep many a writer sane & healthy:
A. Poets & Writers Magazine
Includes informative articles on various aspects of the trade, along with listings of conferences, residencies, and contests. Sign up for their monthly e-letter at www.pw.org
B. PEN’s Grants & Awards Available to American Writers
Find money here! This invaluable resource can be purchased at www.pen.org
C. Marcela Landres’ Latinidad
This is the single greatest resource for Latino writers, by a former editor at Simon & Schuster. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter
D. Erika Dreifus’ The Practicing Writer
Learn all sorts of writer’s tips, job leads, and career advice via this wonderful newsletter and blog
E. Writer’s Residencies
Beautiful people around the world open their estates to artists so they can create in peace. All provide lodging and many serve nightly, home-cooked, communal meals. Some (such as the Kimmel Harding Nelson in Nebraska) pay their writers weekly stipends of $100 or more; others charge $15 to $35 a day (though scholarships are generally available). Still others (like Yaddo, MacDowell, UCross, and Art Omi International) are completely free (albeit highly competitive).
Domestic residencies can be found here: www.artistcommunities.org
International residencies can be found here: www.resartis.org
Want to hide away in a cabin at Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, the Everglades, or another national park in the United States? Go here
Some writers (myself included) write whole books by hopping from one artist colony to the next. (This is known as being a “colony whore.”) I can’t recommend this highly enough – colonies are one of the greatest perks of being a writer! Here is an interview I recently did about residencies with The Practicing Writer.
“NO FEES AND FREE FOOD”: TALKING ABOUT WRITERS’ RESIDENCIES
by Erika Dreifus, The Practicing Writer, May 2008
ERIKA DREIFUS: Stephanie, you’re obviously an intrepid traveler. When did residencies start to become part of your travels? Where were you in terms of your writing and publishing history?
STEPHANIE ELIZONDO GRIEST: I learned about the magical world of residencies just a few months shy of the deadline for my first book, Around the Bloc. I was struggling in New York at the time, sharing a small apartment with multiple roommates and working a full-time job. I desperately needed time and space to finish my book, so I applied to two colonies and got accepted at Ragdale. I very nearly turned it down, though, because of the cost. Not only would I have to buy a plane ticket to Chicago, but Ragdale also charges a daily fee. Fortunately, they offer financial aid in extreme cases, and when I sent in my microscopic W-2 form, they awarded me one in a jiffy.
I’ll never forget my first glimpse of Ragdale. It just radiated good vibes. I could feel it from inside the taxi. And by the time I entered my beautiful cloister, with its fireplace and screened-in porch and clawfoot tub, I was radiating, too — from happiness. Some of the best writing in my book occurred during those two weeks at Ragdale. The solitude enabled me to see the holes in my text and how best to fill them. Ragdale is also where I started referring to myself as a writer for the first time — and believing it.
ED: Your residency record includes an array of sojourns: Ragdale, Art Omi International (Ledig House), the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. You’ve also spent a year as a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. Tell us how you have discovered these opportunities. Which resources (besides, of course, The Practicing Writer!) do you turn to when you’re looking for residency possibilities?
SEG: For domestic residencies, I refer to the wonderful Web site of the Alliance of Artists Communities, at www.artistcommunities.org. For international residencies, I scour the archives of ResArtis, at www.resartis.org. Whenever I arrive at a new residency, I quiz everyone about their favorite spots. Those of us who hop around from colony to colony are known as “colony whores,” and we like to compare notes!
ED: What qualities/characteristics do you look for in a residency program?
SEG: Every residency is glorious in its own special way, but because I operate on an extremely tight budget, I strive for programs that are either free of charge or that offer scholarships (or better yet, stipends!). Communal meals are also a priority, because the food is invariably home-cooked and delicious, and it is great fun to chat with the other residents. So that’s my criteria: no fees and free food.
ED: What practical advice would you give writers facing their first residency application(s)?
SEG: It is like applying to college. There are “long-shot” residencies, such as Yaddo and MacDowell, which can be as selective as the Ivy League. Other residencies, like Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Vermont Studio Center, are more welcoming to newer writers. My advice is to apply for as many as your time and budget will allow, targeting both the “long-shots” and “sure things.” Generally speaking, residencies that are free and located in the Northeast or West Coast are more competitive than residencies with daily fees located elsewhere in the United States. Apply to a good mix. And be sure to give your references plenty of time to write their letters, and send them a thank-you note/gift afterward (because before you know it, you’ll need another letter).
ED: Once a writer receives an acceptance/invitation to a residency program, how should s/he proceed? From your own experience, how can one best prepare for a residency?
SEG: Be open to the muses. I’ve seen writers arrive to residencies with the intention of slaving over a book of short stories, but instead they commence a memoir. Others are serious non-fiction types, but after a few days of wandering around the neighboring forest, they start composing poetry. You never know what will happen to you at a residency. While it is helpful to arrive with a project in mind, allow yourself to be smitten by the unexpected, and to follow it.
ED: I understand that you’ll be leaving shortly for a residency at Can Serrat in Spain. Tell us what has drawn you to that particular residency program, and what you plan to be working on while you’re there.
SEG: What drew me to Can Serrat? Location, location, location! They are nestled inside a rustic farmhouse in Monserrat Natural Park, about an hour’s drive from Barcelona, within walking distance of a monastery with a 1,200-year history. While there, I hope to complete a proposal for my next book and write an essay about my recent trip to Mozambique. But we’ll see what the muses have in store!
ED: How do you expect to organize your time at Can Serrat? Based on your experience, how would you advise writers to make the most of the time they’re given at residencies?
SEG: I am rather masochistic at residencies. As soon as my eyes open (generally between 8 – 9 a.m.), I wash my face, brush my teeth, plunk down at the desk, and stare at the computer screen until I am literally passing out from hunger (generally between 12 – 2 p.m.). Then I cook some oatmeal, go for a bike ride, check email, and — if I can stand it — write another hour or two. If I don’t drink too much wine at dinner, I usually edit the day’s work afterward, then read until my eyelids droop.
ED: How have your previous residencies enhanced your writing?
SEG: The sad truth about book writing is that unless you’re churning out best-sellers, you barely get paid enough to subsist. So my books (and career) would not exist without residencies. Around the Bloc became an entirely different creation during my two-week residency at Ragdale. While at Princeton, I wrote all of 100 Places Every Woman Should Go and sold my proposal for Mexican Enough. And I wrote every word of Mexican Enough at Art Omi, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Dairy Hollow, and a silent Catholic retreat in South Texas called Lebh Shomea. Residencies allow me to maintain my gypsy writer lifestyle, rent-free.
ED: Any residency programs you haven’t yet attended but would like to? What appeals to you about them?
SEG: Ucross sounds pretty fabulous. I love the idea of living on a 22,000 acre ranch in Wyoming. And I’ve heard rave reviews about MacDowell. Both have rejected me three times apiece, but I firmly believe in applying for things until you get it or you die, whichever comes first. There’s also a colony in the South of France with my name written all over it….
ED: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
SEG: Even if you have an ideal working situation at home (i.e. no roommates/spouses/children/pets), you will still be far more productive at a residency. There is something quite profound about creating art in a space where only art is created. Muses seep into the woodwork. You feel compelled to rise and write in the morning. You grow inspired by the writers and artists sitting across the dinner table from you. And because the staff takes care of all the cooking and the cleaning and the purchasing of toilet paper, you get to do things time never allows at home, like taking long walks through silent woods and catching up your journal. Give yourself this gift of time and space, at least once in your career. I promise it will be sheer bliss.
(c) Copyright 2008 Erika Dreifus
… and finally, a little inspiration.