In Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers acclaimed Southern story writer and novelist George Singleton serves up everything you ever need to know to become a real writer (meaning one who actually writes), in bite-sized aphorisms. It's Nietzsche's Beyond Good & Evil meets Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. It's cough syrup that tastes like chocolate cake. In other words, don't expect to get better unless you get a good dose of it, maybe two.
Accompanied by more than fifty original full-color illustrations by novelist Daniel Wallace, these laugh-out-loud funny, candid, and surprisingly useful lessons will help you find your own writerly balance so you can continue to move forward.
Singleton graduated from Furman University in 1980 with a degree in philosophy, and from UNC-Greensboro with an MFA in creative writing. Singleton has taught English and fiction writing at Francis Marion College, the Fine Arts Center of Greenville County, and the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. He has been a visiting professor at the University of South Carolina and UNC-Wilmington, and has given readings and taught classes at a number of universities and secondary schools. He has published four collections of stories: These People Are Us, The Half-Mammals of Dixie, Why Dogs Chase Cars, Drowning in Gruel; and two novels: Novel and Work Shirts for Madmen.
He lives in Pickens County, South Carolina with the clay artist Glenda Guion their eleven dogs and one cat.
Visit his website at www.georgesingleton.com
Published by Writers Digest Books., $17.99
Publication Date: October 22, 2008
Non-Fiction, Writer’s Advice, Hardcover
Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a signed copy of George’s book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!
Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: Welcome to WOW!, George. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers (Writers Digest Books, 2008).
George: Well, I've visited The Muffin and I definitely win Most Curmudgeonly, Ugliest Person to ever be on the blog. Sorry about that.
WOW: Why don't we change that to the Trailblazer Award? After all, you're our first male author on a WOW Blog Tour. And writers, of all people, know not to judge a book by its cover. George, up until now your cover has been stamped "fiction" with four short story collections and two novels. How did you switch from fiction to writing advice?
George: I started writing these little aphorisms and anecdotes in September of 2007. I told my friend Will Allison (a fellow novelist) about it, and he said, "You should contact Lauren Mosko at Writers Digest Books." I did, and sent her 40 of the little sections.
WOW: How did you decide to include illustrations with the book?
George: Actually, while Lauren was consulting with her boss about accepting my book I was on a book tour in Nashville where I told Daniel Wallace (a writer and illustrator) about it. He said, "I want to do illustrations for that book." It was as simple as that.
WOW: It seems like this book led a charmed life. Everything just fit into place.
George: Lauren was a great editor--taking out some of the aphorisms she rightly didn't think made sense. But then, about a week after the book came out Lauren let me know about her decision to leave Writers Digest Books. When Lauren left I felt as though the book no longer had a cheerleader. Wait--I don’t think of Lauren as a cheerleader. I know longer had anyone in my corner. Wait--I don’t think of Lauren as a boxer's cut person. (Laughs) Then I learned that because of layoffs there wasn't exactly a PR department either. My book was an orphan.
WOW: So what does the author of an orphaned book do? Did you have your own marketing plan set up?
George: I never did any publicity for myself. The publishing houses would assign a publicist and I would go off to book signings, interviews…or the people somehow found me. I had some book conferences and festivals lined up, so that was about it.
WOW: Sounds like you aren't a big fan of drumming up publicity for your writing George.
George: I think of it as a necessary evil. I would much rather sit at home and write. It's not that I'm a total misanthrope--I've been known to have a good time--but I get way too nervous at book signings and readings.
WOW: So I suppose a Blog Tour is perfect for you. What's up next, maybe a rant against unreliable publicity plans? And what type of publicity plan for your next book?
George: I'm working on a novel and have a collection of stories pretty much ready. But I'm waiting out the storm. I hope that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gets going again, or someone buys it out. [HMH published George's fiction books but recently stopped acquiring new manuscripts--another victim of the economy]. I worry, again, more about the writing than on publicity plans.
WOW: Well, we're looking forward to those books and are glad to see that you haven't lost that sense of humor that makes Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds such a fun read. Want to join George on his blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.
Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!
March 2, 2009 Monday
George will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of George's book!
March 3, 2009 Tuesday
George will be stopping by Writer's Round-About and sharing his advice on how to make a living as a writer! And, there's a book giveaway contest! Not to miss.
March 4, 2009 Wednesday
George will be stopping by Joyce Anthony's new blog for an exclusive author interview and book review.
March 5, 2009 Thursday
George will be stopping by Jo Ann Hernandez' BronzeWord's Blog to share his writing advice!
March 7, 2009 Saturday
George will be stopping by Mike's Writing Workshop for an author interview and guest post. Not to miss!
March 9, 2009 Monday
George will be visiting Annette Fix's Paper Trail blog to talk about the craft of writing. Be sure to stop by!
March 10, 2009 Tuesday
George will be visiting Writer Unboxed to share his tips on the five things every writer should know. I can't wait for that one!
March 13, 2009 Friday
George will be visiting Beth Morrissey's blog Hell Or High Water to talk about making a living as a short story writer. Another must read!
March 16, 2009 Monday
Thursday Bram will be reviewing George's book Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds at her fantastic blog!
March 17, 2009 Tuesday
George will be stopping by Mary Jo Campbell's blog Writer Inspired for an exclusive interview and book giveaway contest! Comment for a chance to win a copy of George's book!
March 19, 2009 Thursday
George will be stopping by C. Hope Clark's blog for an exclusive interview!
March 23, 2009 Monday
George will be stopping by Susan Johnston's blog The Urban Muse for a surprise guest post!
March 27, 2009 Friday
George will be stopping by Day by Day Writer for an exclusive interview!
We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.
If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in George Singleton's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: email@example.com
** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.
Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of George's latest book Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers. Visit his website at www.georgesingleton.com
George will be stopping by to answer your questions, so ask away! ;)
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
George visited us at the University of Central Arkansas not too long ago and and gave a fabulous reading and master class to our grateful students.ReplyDelete
I've heard a few pearls of George's writing and publishing wisdom and can't wait to get my hands on this book.
Wow! This book sounds very interesting! I'm looking forward to your blog tour. They are amazing and I hope to be on one very soon with my own new novel...I have to agree with you about marketing...it is hard for us writers (no matter if it's non-fiction or fiction) to be able to write, market and present our work as it deserves. When we became a writer there was no hand book telling us ok...rule #1...you must be able to market yourself, your product and still be ahead of the game as far as writing....well thanks to the internet we have a chance to do a little better than without it, but it too is so vast...sometimes you just don't know where to start. I'm looking forward to your blog tour and hope you have great luck with this book and your new one. I can relate to loosing an editor, but mine left before edits on my second book even started...it was very tough finding a replacement that met me and my novel's personalities, but I'm glad to say...it was worth the trip :)ReplyDelete
This is a book that is needed in the world today. Thanks for the encouragement!ReplyDelete
I visited some of Mr. Singleton's book links and was delighted! I will be procuring several by the end of the day.ReplyDelete
Laughter is the best medicine for body and soul. It also is great for helping serious writers keep this process in perspective. Sometimes we get so wrapped around the axial we forget to laugh at life and ourselves.
I look forward to visiting during this tour and hearing more of what Mr. Singleton has to say.
We definitely need cautionary advice trying to get published in this current market. My question is what was the best advice you have gotten as a writer and what is the one piece of advice you think most writers should ignore?ReplyDelete
I would love to read this book!ReplyDelete
Your book looks fantastic, and I'll be tagging along on your blog tour. Congratulations on this and past successes.
A little perspective mixed in with some humor is always a good thing in my opinion. Can't wait to read your book!ReplyDelete
My question is: How have you managed to balance your teaching and your writing? Have you always taught more or less part-time or have some of those teaching positions involved full class loads? Did you set aside specific hours to write or did you squeeze writing in around the papers, meetings, etc.?
Thanks - I look forward to the rest of your blog tour!
What a great choice for the first male author on a WOW blog tour! I really enjoyed this interview and would love a copy of the book.ReplyDelete
Dear Mr. Singleton, as a rookie fiction writer hoping to publish a short story, I've been discouraged at finding that most avenues of SS publication want spiteful, edgy, vulgar, or creepy stuff. I don't like to read that, so I don't write that. I typically write of difficult life situations characters face and how they, in the end, succeed--battered, bruised, different worldview, yes, but successful. Can you suggest any that you're familiar with that would publish my kind of writing? A second question is: As a teacher, what have you noted asReplyDelete
the most common failing of new fiction writers? And third (sorry, I'm curious), what word length of short story is most likely to get a newbie published? 2500 words? (Naturally, assuming the writing is up to par.) Thanks to both you and WOW for hosting you on tour. I wish you all the best with your new book--it sounds "real," not fluffy. ~DB
Oh, wow, I really want this book, which is a first for me! I am generally slow to add to my book list, as it's so long....ReplyDelete
Anyway- Thursday Bram? Urban muse? What a great blog tour! Lucky guy!
This book looks right up my alley. Welcome to WOW!, George!ReplyDelete
Gosh, George, you sound so familiar...did you speak at the Decatur Book Festival? Or hang about being wry and witty?ReplyDelete
I'll be following your tour, trying to win your book. Or trying to figure out where I've seen you. Or trying out some of your writerly advice. And definitely hoping for a screed or two. I just love a good screed :-)
Hey Everyone--My electricity just came back on after 18 hours. Sorry for the delayed responses, and let's see if this works. I'm a newbie at this blogging thing.ReplyDelete
To Krysten: the best advice given to me was that comedy was serious. As a beginning writer I wrote tons of slapstick. That's not funny on the page--think about The Three Stooges, written out: "Moe hit Larry with a frying pan. Larry hit Moe with a chair. Curly poked both of them in the eyes with his fingers." Not funny. So it all seems to go back to the notion of catharsis, or what Beckett says about how there's nothing funnier than human misery (at least misery that's not happening to us).
Advice to ignore: Probably all of it. Here with no electricty, being all patriotic like Abe Lincoln, I was rereading A Hundred Years of Solitude, for some reason, by candlelight. Dead people speaking, long sentences, so many characters with about the same names, et cetera. And a great novel.
The advice I would ignore is this: Someone along the line is going to say, "You know what you need to do? You need to write a spy thriller with a lawyer involved. That's what's selling." If your heart isn't into it, and it's no fun to write, I would continue writing what interests you, and so on. If you make the subject interesting, an editor will understand that.
Now I'm going to hit Send and see if this works...
Well that wasn't as technologically-ridden as I thought it would be.ReplyDelete
Anna--I have the day off from teaching, seeing as there are no road scrapers in South Carolina. There are a lot of things missing here, now that I think about it, but I'll go into more detail about that on a political blog, one day.
I've pretty much taught forever. I started off teaching four English 101 classes a semester, and did that for five years. Believe it or not, I kind of had the reputation of perhaps not treating my body like a temple. But I still got up early, obsessed, and handwrote or typed like all get-out most mornings, usually hungover. I always said I wouldn't be like my father, who got up at four-thirty, banged around the house until I woke up, and so on. No such luck.
So I still get in a couple or three hours, then go off to teach. Sometimes I'll shift it to early afternoon. I'm kind of superstitious, so if I wrote an afternoon story and it got taken by a magazine, I'll continue that writing habit until more bad news hits, which is usually the very next story, that gets taken nowhere.
I know what you're talking about with the vulgar stories. I never write about sex because, well, it's all been written, by better writers. If I learned something way better than anyone else, too, I wouldn't tell the world about it. I'd keep it as my own little secret...
Have you read journals like The Georgia Review, Kenyon Review,Southern Review, Shenandoah, etc.? Those magazines publish really well-written, mostly traditional (protagonist wants something/antagonist stands in the way) stories. I've done no real research--kind of a lie, because it's good to read about every magazine/journal just to see what the editors look for--but it seems that the newer the magazine, the more "out there" the fiction. This is a gigantic generalization, I know. But look at some of the older ones--North American Review, Epoch, Missouri Review, and so on.
2. NO CONFLICT! is the major failure I see in beginning writers. And that's kind of the whole idea of a story. You wouldn't say to someone, "You won't believe what happened to me today--I went to the Piggly-Wiggly, and looked at the cashier. I asked him what was on special. He said there'd been a store fire, and that the chicken wings were on sale. I said thanks." What's the conflict? You'd need to go down the aisle and have some crazy guy hoarding the wings, and so on, for a conflict.
3. I think that, for most literary journals, 5000 words is about the maximum. Sometimes I see "Maximum length 2500 words" but, gee whiz, it's hard to pack a story into ten pages, at least for me (as you can probably tell by these long-winded responses).
Cathy C. Hall--ReplyDelete
Yeah, Decatur Book Festival a couple times, plus that Georgia Center for the Book a couple times, and the Jimmy Carter Library. And the Margaret Mitchell House. I'm old old old, and in time will have read about everywhere, I guess.
I am just starting to get my writing going - taking myself a bit more seriously. I need some laughter to break that up AND some good advice.ReplyDelete
Ladies and Gentleman George -ReplyDelete
Guess I'll have to display my ignorance (what else is it good for?!) because curiosity is killing this cat.
What are screeds? I tried googling, but what I found sure didn't seem to fit in the context of the title.
Obviously, I REALLY need to win the book ... and not just to learn the meaning of screeds.
Learned a lot just from reading your comments. Thanks, George!
It means "rant." But everybody's using "rant" these days. Actually, my dictionary says it means "a long, tiresome speech." Uh-oh. Maybe I should've gone with "rant."
I'm glad Susanne asked what screeds are because I wasn't exactly sure what they are either, and I appreciate your answer.
Your website and previous answers on the WOW! blog tell me you've taught English classes for years and have lectured extensively. No doubt, your students have learned a lot about writing from you.
My question is: Have you learned anything about writing from your students?
Hey Donna V.--ReplyDelete
For the past nine years I've taught eleventh and twelfth graders at the SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities--it's public, residential, and a lot like that TV show Fame. The students have to send in a portfolio, get interviewed, and so on, to gain admittance. They're good and smart and talented--they matriculate to the Ivy League schools, and places like Vassar, Bard, Smith, Duke, Sewanee, UNC, UVA, Kenyon. There are 10 or twevle, maximum, to a class.
So the answer is, Yes, I've learned a lot from them. Also, daily, I'm reminded how difficult it is just being alive: getting spurned by a boyfriend or girlfriend, pressures from parents and peers, et cetera. In regards to writing, every misstep that they (and I) make in a story reminds me that it can cause 100 other missteps, and how much time must be spent backtracking, while looking forward to the horizon.
One common mistake, especially for their first time in a writing workshop--sounding like Hawthorne, Faulkner, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf,Thomas Wolfe, and every other writer from the canon that they've read in a regular English class. That's remedied by their reading a contemporary story a day for nine weeks, usually.
I find I learn a lot easier when the material can be presented in a light hearted tone.
Most informational books are presented like a long sermon; yes, there is knowledge in there, but the trick is to stay awake long enough to discover it.
Thanks for being the first male guest on WOW's Blog Tour.
Question: Since the economy seems to be hitting the conventional publishing industry; do you believe more writers will be forced toward self publishing?
To the Muffin:
I know(no)longer had anyone in my corner.
Thanks for stopping by, George. I've really liked what I've seen so far, including the illustrations by Daniel Wallace. I'll be shopping for a copy (if I'm not lucky enough to win one in the drawing!). -- jsReplyDelete
This is my first visit to a blog tour, and I must say I like it!ReplyDelete
The stock market really looked great today, huh?...And why is gold going down, too? I don't get it.
Just like I don't get publishing. Publishing's demise has been predicted since 1500 or thereabouts. I'm not all that keen on so many foreign, non-publishing entities buying up US publishers--and I'm no xenophobe against foregn companies. I would rather a large paperclip company get bought up by someone at least interested in stationary products instead of, say, farm equipment.
But self-publishing has to take loads of money, and a willingness to lose it. The internet certainly would help, I would think, so people wouldn't have to lug books around in their trunks, hawking tomes on the street corner and flea market.
I'm still of the belief that if a book is good enough, it will eventually get published. In the last few years I wrote a short novel, my agent despised it, I rewrote it, she despised it again. I let it sit a year and looked it over. I owe my agent a bouquet of flowers--what was I thinking? So I'm glad she didn't bother to send it off. I'm glad I didn't get more hard-headed than I am and publish it myself.
I can't believe that I'm saying this, but I'm remaining optimistic. Yikes. I better stop on this one.
This is my first blog visit/tour, also. I had no clue it would be such an intelligent and friendly environment. Hats off to WOW for having the guts to open the door for me.
Now I have to go eat a big crow for everything I've ever thought about blogs, blogging, the internet. I'll still hold to my belief that the inventor of Windows Vista should be banned from this planet, but I'm okay with blogging.
I was fortunate enough to win a copy of your book from writersdigest.com, and I loved it. The bite-sized paragraphs were perfect to read during the brief breaks offered by my rambunctious three-year-old. Considering what some of my days are like, I'll take all the pep talks I can get. Thanks for writing such an enjoyable book.
Thanks, Beth, and congratulations on winning the book. That's something I always forget about--trying to write while taking care of a preschooler. I have all these dogs barking at four in the morning, but then they go outside, return, and go back to sleep. How in the world do people write with a newborn around, or a toddler?ReplyDelete
I'd be the worst mother of all times, but my kid would grow up knowing how to fend for her- or himself.
Fantastic discussions! :o) So many great questions...and Abe Lincoln, I mean, George, your answers are hilarious. What a breath of fresh air.
I agree with you about self-pubbing--very costly. But it seems either way the author has to spend money to promote him/herself. At least traditional publishers offer an advance. At least, I hope they still do! I know this is a kinda personal question, but what can novelists expect to see as an advance? Are they even giving them out still? I've heard from other authors lately that they haven't received anything except for residuals. =/
Hey Angela, I just wrote you an email. Sorry to be away, but The Jerk was on and it seemed fitting that I watch it...ReplyDelete
Advances--My first book came out when I was 41. The advance was 1500 bucks. I was in heaven. That book sold, and the second book, with Algonquin, went up to ten grand. More heaven. Then Liz Darhansoff asked if I wanted her services, and she promised never to bug me about writing a novel if I didn't want to. Books 4 and 5--a two book deal--went to six figures. That's why I say it ain't all that bad getting an agent.
But I know this--somehow, through some kind of mathematical oddity--it seems that the advance is always right about what one makes, or at least it has for me. My last royalty check from Algonquin for The Half-Mammals of Dixie? Two dollars even. It didn't even make sense--10 perecnt of 22.95 should at least be $2.29, right? I didn't even cash it. It would've cost me three dollars in gas to get to the bank.
I think that the days of the gigantic advance--except for King, Grisham, and the like--are over. Probably not a bad thing. Gee, what if the publishing houses saved their money on advances, and put to work those PR people, and pushed the books themselves? What an idea!
Thanks for the great day, by the way. My schedule got turned around because of ice and snow and blogging, so I'm going to write for a couple hours now. But I'll check back in one last time.
You wrote, "P.S.
To the Muffin:
I know(no)longer had anyone in my corner."
Did you lose a publisher? =/
BTW, uber-thanks for posting about the tour on your blog. :o)
Dictionary ... why didn't I think of that? Actually, I did; was just too lazy to get my proverbial off the chair and go get it.ReplyDelete
Googling usually works,BUT not this time. The only "screed" I found was a concrete finishing tool!
George, you chose exactly the right word for the title. Caught my attention and made me want to know more.
George, On the same day I read your WOW interview, I received a gift card for Amazon.com. Kismet, right? Or maybe I'll win a copy. Either way, I look forward to reading it.ReplyDelete
You manage to write amidst eleven dogs?! You're my hero!
Thank you for all your comments. I took the names, wrote them on a piece of paper, and put them in a hat. My hubby picked the winner and...ReplyDelete
...the winner is...Susanne!
Susanne, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, mailing address, and email. Congrats!!