Amid the concerns over contact with others, I've managed to reread most of what I've written in fifteen years (about 12 novels, too many novellas, approximately 90 short stories, and enough poetry for another collection).
Last spring and summer, I sent out twelve submissions and received nine rejections--some anonymously machine and others personal. The three acceptances surprised me. Last year, I published a book review with The Delmarva Review, but I had given up on submitting years ago after too many rejections. This year, they accepted two of my sonnets written during the height of anxiety due to COVID19. My father's visits were so real in those early days, and now they live on the pages of the anthology.
A story I have been honing since 1983 when Ted was born, and I dove into science fiction during a summer of new mother loneliness was accepted by The Bay to Ocean Anthology. In "Celia's Audience with a Madman," the reader meets Celia Maycomb, my favorite brand of gusty, smart woman who faces a machine that can outthink her.
Finally attempting ekphrastic poetry for the Here l Not Here art exhibition by SU Galleries, one of my poems was chosen for an anthology of artwork and poetry and a meditative reading in September. The photograph I chose enjambed a beautiful shade of blue and the shambling rot of an old shed. "Overgrown" unlocked as I wrote for that scene and dove into the story of a woman who escaped, returned, was thwarted, and fled. Sometimes there are entire novels wrapped up in poetry.
There is the joy in quarantine.
I also finished my novel Confessions in Birdsong (which might have been lost in that cyberattack, but that is sorrow and not my subject.) Another novella jumped out of the past and threw itself onto the page as an exorcism from the seriousness of Confessions. Charlie's Heart is a romp into romance with all of its grumpy strangers, self-sacrificing urges, and twisting turns.
Embarking on the task to write book reviews, I want to be fair but kind. I read through the edits of "Celia" when I was returned to me. Something I have been honing for all those years had so many flaws. In a review, I am focusing on good storytelling, good formatting, and fine writing. I'm no expert, but I am a reader. So there's joy in reading and reviewing for Greyhound Books' authors.
Hello all from the 9th Month of Quarantine,
Spending the Thanksgiving break with a very small (3) family gathering this year instead of the extended family of more than twenty has been different but also restful. Although I worry over the ransomware attack on my school system, there is a bit of freedom in knowing there is little I can do but follow directives and stay off my work device and programs.
Each turn sends me back to writing. This time, the writing takes the form of book reviews for my friend and bookstore owner, Susan Ayers Winbrow of Greyhound Books of Berlin, MD. Each book that I review has been chosen from a curated list.
The urge to feature and support the publication of self-published writers by an independent bookstore is great, but it is double-edged. Some of the books offered through self-publishing are unique and enlivening despite not being shopped around traditional publishers, and some are downright drivel. Quite a few good stories are poorly edited or awkwardly set on the page. Self-publishing might have made it easier for writers to publish, but it has opened the floodgates for error.
I speak from experience. Simply shopping my first collection of poetry through a few publishers was time-consuming when I have so little left over from the day job--teaching. Then there are edits and promotion. Book signings and appearances take their own kind of preparation.
Most of my life has been devoted to teaching. Anyone who teaches can tell you that they've written a few novels-worth of pages just translating the curriculum into lesson plans. That is just the beginning.
J D Cooper
Writer and Reviewer