On Writing and Selling Same


On Writing and Selling Same

Dorothy Parker is credited with saying, “I hate writing. I love having written.”  I agree. And let me add: “I hate selling. I love having sold.”

I’m now in the midst of marketing (a less odious term for selling) Another Sunday, setting up readings, sending out press releases, posting events on Facebook, and, I must add, writing blogs. It’s a nasty business, this marketing is, for those born without a silver tongue and a thick skin. Fortunately, as with most writers, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a relative resilience, born of a myriad of opportunities to be ignored or rejected by journals, literary and less-so, agents, and publishers, the latter holding the manuscript for months.

So not hearing back from some book sellers, high-tone reviewers – well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And hurray to those who reached out, said yes, welcomed me and my book warmly. It makes their percentage-take a bit more palatable.

Marketing involves a great deal of planning, implementation, and waiting – there’s a long lead time. It is also a very left-brain activity. And I thought, hoped, that I had left all that “business stuff” behind when I decided to devote my days (and nights) to writing. Well, not quite.

Now, finally, after immersing myself in selling, pardon me, marketing, these activities are slowing down – not ending, but I’ll take slowing down as a gift.

This week, I returned to my novel-in-progress. As I carried my files to the dining room table, I felt that I was coming home. Not that it’s easy. Having written is still way preferable to writing. But I’m loving it. And the research – Wikipedia and I are best friends again. And I do hope that no one ever investigates my web searches.

So, I would be delighted if you’d read my book, thrilled if you’d buy it, print or e-book. If you can make it to one of my readings, well, that touches my heart. And, even more shameless self-promotion, the schedule of appearances is on my website:  cynthiastrauff.com.

And now, back to writing….

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Snow Days…


On Snow Days…

Today I am indulging myself, at the risk of overwhelming readers with yet another musing on snow.

For more years than I want to remember, I worked in positions where it was crucial to be present when it snowed. My presence was what was necessary, not so much that I actually accomplish anything. Rather, it was to give moral support to those whose hands and backs did the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively), hoping to communicate without words that we were all in this together.

But now, a snow day means a day at home, a day where requirements, where appointments, commitments are postponed and rescheduled. A free day, where I am warm, indoors, with soup simmering on the stove, is a special treat.

When I lived in Chicago, life went on – snow, below zero wind-chills, hardy Mid-Westerners wrapped scarves around necks, faces and carried on. Pioneers with that resilient spirit. I became one of them and felt quite self-righteous.

When I first moved to North Carolina, I mocked these soft Southerners, those who, at the first suspicion of inclement weather ran to the store for milk, bread and toilet paper. Where was their can-do spirit, I wondered?

Then I realized – who’s stupid? Who wouldn’t relish a day off, a special holiday, a gift from the snow queen? And I got it – again, I became one of “them.” Yes, one of those who, upon the merest possibility of snow immediately went to my calendar to cancel commitments, ears focused on the weather channel, sharp for precipitation forecasts.

This morning, as I sat by the fire, I felt the stillness, background sounds muted by snowfall. Silence, and that somber, pensive mood that comes with it.

A Facebook friend, author Tommy Hays, posted an excerpt from James Joyce, the poetic ending to his amazing work, The Dead:

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried … His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and dead.”

And I sit in my warm house before the fire, electricity intact, grateful, thankful for my luck and undeserved blessings, and hoping for the same for each of us.




On My Year of Yes

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On My Year of Saying Yes

I must be honest – I have not read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes yet, BUT I am third on the list at the library. Now I did see her on Oprah, so I am not totally ignorant of her message. Basically, it is to step out and say yes to opportunities presented.

Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty good mechanism for saying no, so, I thought, with the beginning of a new year, this “yes thing” might be just the ticket.  I realized that opportunities presented themselves to me all the time – movies, exhibits, parties, classes, lectures. And my first reaction in most cases was “that sounds nice.” But then (and isn’t there always a but then…) somehow life always got in the way- it was too far to drive, I didn’t feel like getting dressed, I told myself that I’d follow up on it later – and if I remembered it, most times it was too late – the exhibit had closed, the lecture had passed, the movie had left.

So it’s not the yes I have trouble with. It’s the actual doing that presents a challenge. Yes, I’d love to see that play. Then, on that afternoon, it just felt too cozy to stay at home. My book called to me with a louder siren call than getting dressed and heading out. Well, one time that may be just fine, but it is a slippery slope and I had slid way past the Angle of Repose (which is also the title of one of the books I chose to stay home and read rather than go out).

But no more – or at least not so much. Since my declaration, heretofore only to myself, that this would be my year of following up on that YES, I’ve gone to two parties, attended a showing of the Bolshoi’s Lady of the Camellias, bought tickets to see Beautiful, seen an exhibit of Bodies Revealed, as well as an exhibit of American Impressionist paintings on the day before it closed and enrolled in a class on History and Identity on Screen. And it’s still January!

Now I’m not saying that I’ll keep up this pace of actually doing things that “sound nice.” My life has other focuses that don’t fall into that “say yes” category. But these few weeks have made me realize that once I take that second step, the rest is easy, or at least not impossible.

And now I must close; I’m on my way to see Spotlight.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com  author of Another Sunday

On Those Scots-Irish Pioneers


On Those Scots-Irish Pioneers

I’m an indoor person. I come from a long line of indoor people – you know, the kind who define rigorous exercise as walking to the library (or bar), and weight-lifting as walking home from the library carrying books (or from the bar holding onto streetlights).

My forbearers settled in Maryland, almost all in Baltimore. When they got off the boat, they walked, at most, a few blocks and said, “This looks pretty good to me,” while they looked with bemused wonder at their shipmates who thought the wilds of Western Maryland (by this they thought Frederick) held their dreams. I would reckon that those who journeyed to the Appalachians were beyond my ancestors’ imaginations.

So, all this as a precursor to my admiration for hardy pioneers. For who better to appreciate an attribute than one who would have roundly turned her back on Horace Greeley’s exhortation to “go West.”

My thoughts are fueled by a recent trip to the Smokey Mountains and reading John Erle’s Time of Drums. Both deepened my understanding of that fierce independent mountaineer temperament, that inner strength that had to be called up for survival. While riding through Cades Cove in my comfortable car, I found myself filled with a deep sense of admiration for that Scots-Irish Highland spirit. I once heard Sharyn McCrumb, known for her Appalachian Ballad novels, say that the Southern hillbilly is the last group that we are still allowed to ridicule. They have no advocacy group calling for respect, for deference, for political correctness. Well, they wouldn’t, would they?

While we all have our labels, each of us is more complex than a one-dimensional categorization. And how easy it is for our strengths to quickly morph into clichéd weaknesses. No, those primal mountain men and women were not perfect, but I surely do admire their ability to face life as it was presented to them, without complaints, or excuses. Strength, and determination, and independence can be read in their faces. They wear their wrinkles with pride and dignity. We should respect and honor them for that.



On Friends from High School

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On Friends from High School


I’ve been thinking about friendship.

And it occurred to me that rather than friends coming into and leaving our lives, what really happens is that they rise or descend to different rungs of the friendship ladder. At times it’s a conscious decision – something happens, a word is said that brings us closer, or closes a door, or triggers a chasm. Other times, we assure ourselves that life, or the exigencies of time, is responsible, although we know, deep down, that it is always our choice.

Sometimes it is we who are relegated or raised, and if we slip down the ladder of someone who is special to us, it hurts, even if we understand. Other times it is we who decide, all the while convincing ourselves that we can resurrect that longstanding relationship when we have the time, or when we feel nostalgic.

I’ve experienced this from both sides, with a quantity of hurt, a fair amount of guilt, and, occasionally, relief.

But what is it about high school friends that makes them special, no matter what rung of the ladder they occupy?

I think that it is that they knew us when. When we were on the way to becoming ourselves, trying on the different hats of self, walking like Jackie Kennedy, wearing our hair like Audrey Hepburn, hanging out at the Hopkins campus, smoking cigarettes, sure that those handsome fraternity boys would think us collegians.

They knew us when. We knew each other’s parents, who are now memories in the minds of such a few. We sat at our kitchen tables drinking cokes and sneaking sips of bourbon from the liquor cabinet. We knew each other’s mothers, and wished ours were more like them. Those with glamourous mothers wished they were home bodies. Those whose mothers cooked and cleaned and sewed longed for mothers who wore silk lounging pajamas and smoked and drank martinis. Always wishing that our lives were just a bit different, it would take us years and heartaches before we learned to appreciate gifts given by our own mothers, and forgive them for being who they were. We can only wish for the same from our daughters.

I went to a small school, all girls, all of us scattered now, though there is a cadre who meet regularly for lunch, to keep up with one another, to support and cheer one another on. I see them on my rare returns to Baltimore.

And when I do, I am proud to be among their number. My high school friends…

cynthiaschaub.com, author of Another Sunday