Category Archives: Writing

Book Signing & Supporter Appreciation Tour

The Book Signings that Dad and Caroline and I held at City Hall on Friday, March 27, and at the Summersville Arena & Conference Center on Saturday, March 28, were a great success!  We were so happy to greet so many old friends with whom we laughed and hugged and shared a multitude of memories.  We were also thrilled to meet the new friends who dropped by and introduced themselves.

Thanks so much to all who stopped by to visit.  And thanks as well to all of you who could not make it and dropped a note of explanation.  We missed you but will catch you next time!

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Publishing the book “SUMMERSVILLE” – Part Two

In early November 2014, the permissions for reprints and for the personal information I wrote about Dad and Caroline and others were accepted, and LifeRich’s Content Review people provided their final approval.

Next up was Editorial Assessment, which I learned was something far different than I had assumed.  I thought they were actually going to edit my entire book, show me their suggestions, and then let me accept or reject the edits as I wished.  As it turned out, they reviewed seven of my 170 pages in a “sample edit” and reported back that they recommended a line edit, which is the least intense form of editing they do (good news for me because that means they did not believe the book needed a heavy edit).  They complimented my book and plumped me up on how promising it could be with their magic touch.  Problem was, if I wanted their editing, their lightest brand of review and revision, it was going to cost me an estimated $2,200.  Before submitting my manuscript to LifeRich, I had already paid my personal professional editor, Neva, $1,800 to do a full substantive and line edit.  No way was I going to pay that extra to LifeRich.  Fortunately, their sample edit noted the few things that they found offensive – my manuscript needed hyphens in adjectival phrases, numbers spelled out, page breaks for new chapters, a table of contents, em dashes with no spaces for parenthetical phrases at the end of a sentence – some really pretty minor stuff, and so I edited it myself.  Shit, I can do that!  For free!

(Disclaimer:  The fact that LifeRich was willing to do only a sample edit actually was in my Author Services Contract.  The contract noted that full editorial services would come at an additional cost, so it was my oversight and not a subversive move by LifeRich.)

That was mid-November.  By the time I completed the full edit and got my final version back to LifeRich, it was the Friday before Thanksgiving.  It took me a couple of weeks because I literally re-read every word of my book, and the effort was worth it – I think I sent them something like 35-40 corrections.  I sent the revised manuscript to my check-in coordinator, Barb, which is what I was advised to do by the rep for Editorial Assessment.  I heard back from Barb on the day before Thanksgiving, and she told me she had to send the package back to Editorial Assessment to let them close it out first.  Barb was very professional and helpful, but I wish her Editorial colleagues had just taken the next step without me having to go back through Barb, which simply ate up more time.

Anyway, they closed it out, and the next time I heard from LifeRich was on Dec 2.  I got an email from Elizabeth in Cover Copy and Polish, which is where they review and edit, as necessary, the text I created for the cover – essentially, the title, subtitle, and the blurb and author bio for the back cover.  LifeRich cautions that the process takes them seven to ten business days because they don’t show the results of their cover review until they share the mock-ups for the cover and interior design.  Which is the next phase in the process.

So I give them the benefit of the doubt and wait the ten business days, but by the time that’s up, I’ve heard nothing but crickets.  On December 16, I emailed Barb to ask what the next step is.  They must have had me circling in a holding pattern because Barb came back the next day to say she needs several things to move my process forward – a waiver for low quality images (imagine that, photos from the ‘60s and ‘70s are imperfect compared to today’s digital wonders), an author photo should I choose to provide one, any ideas I have for the cover, and any specifications I might have for interior design like font and spacing.  I got back to her same day fulfilling all her requests.

Barb promptly got back to me on the 18th to congratulate me on completing the submission process, thus opening the door for me to enter the production process.  I would be handed over to the design team and my contact will be Mary Wegener.  Amazingly, Mary got back with me same day, and she would prove to be almost superhuman throughout the rest of the process in terms of responsiveness.  I’ve been scrambling around in a dark tunnel, but blackness has given way to the first stages of dawn, where I can actually see the barest outlines of things, and I know that the light at the end of the tunnel is soon going to shine bright as day.

I will recount the remainder of the process in my third and final blog post on this topic in the next few days.

 

 

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Publishing the Book “SUMMERSVILLE”

My first contact with the publisher, LifeRich Publishing (an imprint of Reader’s Digest), was at the end of July 2014.  We exchanged a ton of information, the most important of which were the Author Services Agreement and my manuscript, as polished and dolled up as I could possibly make it, by mid August.  I had engaged my own editor, Neva Corbin, one of the most accomplished grammarians and English usage experts I had ever met.  After fifteen months of my own countless rewrites and revisions and her highly professional review, I felt confident I was submitting my best effort.

While I awaited LifeRich’s Content Review, I busied myself getting possible photos together for the book.  I submitted approximately sixty photos which, since they were mostly from my or my parents’ childhoods, were mostly old and grainy, you know, like the black and whites on Kodak paper.  My check-in coordinator kept coming back and telling me that some were unacceptable and others would work but may not print well because they were smudged or blurry or had some other defect.  I finally told her, “Look, these photos are from the 1950’s and 1960’s or earlier.  That’s what family photos looked like before digital photography.  I expect them to look like this.”  So I found twenty that were acceptable to her and went with that.

In early September, I got the results of the Content Review of my manuscript, which was primarily intended to ferret out possible instances of copyright infringement, libel or defamation of character, and invasion of privacy.  Because my book was to be a memoir (that is, not fictionalized at all), the publisher exercised heightened scrutiny.  I had used excerpts from articles from several newspapers and publications to support my story, primarily the parts about Dad’s political life.  I thought that as long as I properly gave credit and cited my references, I would be OK.  Not so fast, honey.  What they came back and said was that I could reprint someone else’s work ONLY with their permission unless what I was reprinting amounted to no more than ten percent of that work or four lines, whichever was less.  I had used a lot of articles from The Nicholas Chronicle (published weekly in Summersville since the 1880’s) so I carefully copied each excerpt into a Word file and sent that in an email to the editor asking for permission to reprint.  I ultimately got permission from the Chronicle and a couple of other sources.  For the other works of concern, I cut down the reprinted part to four lines or less and paraphrased as necessary to provide context.

In other cases, LifeRich was concerned about defamation or invasion of privacy when my story ventured into negative or very personal portrayals.  I ended up getting written, notarized permissions from Dad and a couple of other family members, and for others, I simply deleted the questionable part of the story or rewrote it to where LifeRich’s concerns were allayed.  That whole process did take quite a while though.  It was not until October 30, almost two months after I received the initial Content Review, that LifeRich sent my revised manuscript back for a follow-up Content Review.

Here’s a little of the back story though.  I was so frustrated with the amount of work I was having to do on the manuscript because I was ready to get this book published and move on to my next project.  I kept getting sidetracked with things like, what would my next project be, shouldn’t I be establishing an author platform, and so on.  I really had to keep pushing myself to go back through the entire manuscript with LifeRich’s Content Review commentary by my side, making sure that I picked up and addressed each and every instance that may give them heartburn.  Their Review did not consist of them meticulously reading every page and listing each item of concern.  They merely did a sample review and gave me guidance as to the type of things that were unacceptable.  It really was up to me to go through and identify the passages of concern and take appropriate action to fix them.  That made for some really tedious work for me.

In the end, though, I was surprised in a very unexpected way.  My revised work, even with deletions and rewrites I was initially loath to make, really was better than what I had originally submitted. I had gained a deeper understanding of what it truly meant to take a very hard look at what I had written.  Lesson learned.

 

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How the Book Was Actually Written, Start to Finish

When I started writing, back in May of 2013, all I had was the 3,500 word essay I had written about my sister Caroline’s adoption experiences and an outline that I built and framed around that essay.  The outline covered things like Mom and Dad’s childhoods, their meeting and marriage, starting a family, and so on.  I layered in events like how Dad got into politics and his early elections.  I moved on to political challenges he faced and his very real local successes that endeared him to much of Summersville’s populace.

I had two main sources for this part:  Dad and The Nicholas Chronicle.  I wanted color around everything.  What made Dad decide to run for mayor to begin with, what people or other obstacles got in his way, what were his first homes like, what did Mom think of Summersville, how did he ever decide to buy the big house we lived in?  I generally emailed my questions to Dad, and he emailed me back.  That was critical, because I revisited countless times what ended up being about forty pages of emails between Dad and me.

The Chronicle was also critical though.  As a memoirist, I was lucky to have a family that lived a very public life.  We had a bunch of clippings already saved–from when the hospital opened, when President Johnson came to town, when Summersville celebrated Bill Bryant Day–and all those were very helpful.  But as I constructed my story, I realized I had missing pieces of the puzzle and that if I had access to the Chronicle archives, I might just have a treasure trove of material that would be useful to me.  Imagine my disappointment upon visiting the Chronicle office and finding that they had bound copies but only back to the 1960s, and their store of those was spotty.  That’s when I found out that the West Virginia Archives and Library had on film practically every issue of the Chronicle back to its inception in the 1880s.  Even then it was not easy.  I had to compile my list of dates, periods, or years in which I was looking for something, and then Caroline and I hoofed it to Charleston to go research the film frame by frame.  By today’s standards, it was primitive, but primitive was better than nothing at all!

At other points in putting this story together, I realized I had missing pieces that neither Dad nor the Chronicle nor Caroline could help with.  For those, I’m thankful to Aunt Peggy and Aunt Patti, my sister-in-law Linda, Billy’s old girlfriend Marilyn, and several other kind old friends of the family who shared their memories.  For the remaining holes, I had to simply hunker down for some old-fashioned research.  That’s how I got the great context around Prohibition and the Mine Wars in West Virginia, the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and the supreme and selfless efforts put forth by Louise Bing, Jim Comstock, Dad and many other loyal West Virginians to procure a Lincoln statue for the Capitol grounds.

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Retro Post (third of four)

Reminder on the purpose of these Retro Posts:  I thought that readers might be interested in a few blog posts that I wrote back when I was in the middle of writing SUMMERSVILLE.  They primarily cover how I got started writing, my process, and some of the challenges I faced along the way.  Let me know what you think!

LET ME BACK UP A STEP.   (Originally posted 1/22/14, edited for clarity)

Although I formally started writing the book SUMMERSVILLE in May 2013, effectively I started well before that.  I had often thought that a particular story about my sister, who was adopted by my parents in 1957, was poignant and worthy of being told.  I’d had this thought for a time, and then something else happened to her around 2006 that made the story all that more amazing.

I planned my February 2013 retirement from the bank months ahead of time–back in August 2012.  So for seven months, I was considering what sort of second career I would pursue, and I decided early on it would be something to do with writing.  I started reading about different ways of writing to make money, and I came across Lee Gutkind’s book, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction — from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between.”

That book may have changed my life, or at least strongly influenced the turn it would take.  Lee described his involvement with the Creative Nonfiction movement and mentioned his quarterly journal by the same name.  I subscribed to the journal and found through the website that the organization also offered various writing courses.  So I signed up for “Foundations of Creative Nonfiction,” a 10-week class that started in January 2013.  We had to write three 3,500 word essays, and one of mine was my first attempt at telling my sister’s story.  Of course the instructor and my two peer reviewers had suggestions for improvement, but the story itself was very well received.

My active work for the bank and this writing course ended at about the same time.  I had been heavily researching copy writing as a possible second career, and I had also set up a website to offer writing and editorial services, but I was struggling with how I was going to market myself.  Not long after that was when my husband asked the pivotal question, “Why don’t you just stop all this scatter shot stuff and write a book?”

And that is how the idea for SUMMERSVILLE was incubated.

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Retro Post (second of four)

HOW DO YOU START A BOOK IF YOU’VE NEVER WRITTEN ONE BEFORE?  (Originally posted 1/7/14, edited for clarity)

My dad will be ninety-three in about a month, and I certainly could not have even begun this book without him.  It would have been impossible to write about our experience in Summersville without being able to write about my parents’ lives before they got there.  They both grew up in southern West Virginia in the 1920s and ’30s, got married in the ’40s, and then lived in Summersville from the late ’40s to the mid ’70s.

My mom died in 2007, and since I did not start this book until 2013, I have not had the benefit of interviewing her as I have been able to do with Dad and my sister Caroline.  Very sadly, I also have not been able to interview my brother Billy because he died at the very young age of fifty-seven in 2009.  Of course, I have my memories of them and memories of things they told me, but having Dad and Caroline around to fill in the many blanks in my own memory has been invaluable.  Fortunately we all get along well, and no one has yet threatened to shoot me if I ask another question or send another email.  In fact, I think they are actually enjoying it.

Without giving away the plot of the book, I will say we lived a very interesting life in a small town in West Virginia.  As often happens with cases like this, when I later in life recounted some of these stories to others, I would hear the much cliched refrain, “You should write a book!”  So with my husband’s encouragement, I started recording and ordering all the events that, in my mind, were book-worthy.  And thus, the process was begun.

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Retro Post (first of four)

I thought that readers might be interested in a few blog posts that I wrote back when I was in the middle of writing SUMMERSVILLE.  They primarily cover how I got started writing, my process, and some of the challenges I faced along the way.  I will post them over the next week.  Let me know what you think!

WELCOME 2014!  (Originally posted 1/1/14, edited for clarity)

I’m glad you’re finally here because this is the year, Providence willing, that I will publish my first book.

First, a gigantic thanks to my husband, Emmett, for fully supporting me in my decision to retire from Bank of America last year, after a 27+ year career in banking.  Banking, including my earlier stints at a small bank in Texas and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, was very good to me, but it was time for me to pursue a second career.

Initially, I looked at things like copy writing.  The only way I could plausibly do that would be if I were deeply passionate about the product or service and the company, and it’s just not simple to fall into that kind of situation.  I settled on setting up a writing and editorial services company.  I fretted over how I would market myself, locally and on the web.  I futzed around with that for a couple of months but did not get much farther than creating a website.

One day in May 2013, my husband said, “Why don’t you just write a book?”  I asked him if he was serious. Yes, he was–just stop all this scatter shot activity and write the book you’ve always wanted to write, he said.  So I started on a memoir about the small town in West Virginia where I grew up, where my family was steeped in local politics, and where we led such a privileged, though at times challenging, life.  Now I’m about 60 percent through the first draft, and I’m actually believing that publishing it in 2014 is a reality.

But I really think I needed 2014 to show up before it would finally come to fruition.  So as Marvin Gaye would croon, “Let’s get it on!”

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My Book “SUMMERSVILLE” is now out!

“SUMMERSVILLE – My Family’s Life of Privilege, Politics, and Passion in Small-Town West Virginia” is now available at Amazon!

http://smile.amazon.com/Summersville-Privilege-Politics-Small-Town-Virginia-ebook/dp/B00SBDQ9IU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421424553&sr=1-1&pebp=1421424563429&peasin=B00SBDQ9IU

Front Cover Only

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Alice Bryant Byrd – Almost There

I retired from 27+ years in banking in early 2013 so that I could pursue a second career in writing.  After flailing about for a couple of months researching copy writing, writing articles for magazines, freelance writing, editing services, and so on, my husband said one day, “Why don’t you just write a book?”

I’d been thinking about that too, but I was trying to marry my desire to write with an occupation that might supplement my post-retirement income, which consists mostly of deferred bonuses that I receive once a year for three years.  I have made a miniscule amount of income by offering editorial services, but that is about it.

So in May 2013, I started writing my book–a memoir about the small town in West Virginia where I grew up and where my dad was mayor for 15 years.  I finally completed that book in July of 2014, and it should be published within about three weeks as it is currently with the printer.  It will also be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and most of the other major online booksellers.

I’m told that if you are an author, you must have an online presence, an author platform as they say.  I’m in process of figuring that out, and I humbly offer up this first blog post.  I’m also in process of deciding if I want to “jump the fence” and write a novel for my second effort.

If anyone has words of encouragement or wisdom, please don’t hold back on me. Share!

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