Jeni says: “I am the editor of Winning Writers, an online resource for markets and contests for creative writers”, https://winningwriters.com/index.php
Her blog at "Reiter's Block", http://www.jendireiter.com/
Her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jendireiter
Her novel publisher: http://www.saddleroadpress.com/news.html
1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?
Jendi Reiter is pronounced "JEN-dee WRITE-er"
2. Where are you currently living?
I live in a Victorian house across from a cemetery in Northampton, Massachusetts.
3. Where would you like to live?
I'm living in my dream home, but I also wish I could afford an apartment in Manhattan, where I grew up.
4. Why did you start writing?
To cheat death and make something productive out of my incorrigible daydreaming habit.
5. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
The only way to find the truth is to make my own mistakes.
6. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I talk to, and about, some of my fictional characters as though they were real people—to the point where my friends will ask me, quite seriously, "How are you? And how's Julian?" (the protagonist of my novel, Two Natures)
7. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
In my opinion, self-publishing is a more viable route for fiction and nonfiction than for poetry. It is unlikely that you will make back your investment on a poetry book. Prestige is the real currency of poetry publishing, so I advise poets to keep entering legitimate and well-respected contests till they get accepted. Subscribers to our free Winning Writers e-newsletter receive access to our curated database of free contests. Our website also offers advice for spotting contest scams.
I have been really impressed by the quality and creativity of the self-published novels and memoirs entered in the Winning Writers North Street Book Prize, for which I am a final judge. With the right PR, they could give those mass-market bestsellers a run for their money! I do think these books suffered a bit from not having that last round of professional copy-editing and proofreading from a regular publisher. If you're self-publishing, spend a couple hundred dollars extra to hire a good freelance editor before you go to press.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
Two Natures will be published by Saddle Road Press of Hilo, Hawaii. My latest poetry collection, Bullies in Love, was published in 2015 by Little Red Tree, which was then in New London, Connecticut, but has just moved to North Platte, Nebraska.
8. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I believe we are approaching a time when the format and type of publisher will matter much less than whether the book is (1) professionally edited, (2) readily available, and (3) marketed well. Mainstream presses still carry more prestige than self-publishing, and authors do love to have a printed book in hand, but for the reader, the quality of the experience is primary. Don't worry about getting that big-name contract, if it means compromising your artistic vision or working with a press so large that you get lost in the crowd. Just make the book the best it can be, and make it available in as many formats as possible.
9. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Do your research before submitting. Identify presses that publish books you admire, with a similar aesthetic or theme. Then ask around about what it's like to work with that publisher. You are more likely to have a positive experience, and build a long-term relationship with that press for your next books, when you have clear and realistic expectations about the press's strengths and limitations.
10. How did you acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
All of my poetry books and chapbooks were published through contests. Poets don't have agents because there is no money in it to pay an agent's commission! "Here, have 15% of my literary immortality." My first novel got picked up without an agent, which is rather unusual. I was about to start looking for an agent after striking out with the novel contests, but then I happened to be emailing with Ruth Thompson of Saddle Road Press about some poetry news, and she mentioned that SRP was seeking literary fiction manuscripts. Ruth and I had "met" online through my business, Winning Writers. We had reviewed her beautiful poetry chapbooks and she had also written a blurb for my collection Bullies in Love. I'm excited to be working with her in this new capacity.
To start your research on working with agents, follow publishing industry experts like @JaneFriedman and @ChuckSambuchino on Twitter. Sambuchino edits the Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents, another good resource. Poets & Writers Magazine also publishes a special issue on literary agents each year.
11. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The spark for my novel came from these characters who appeared in my imagination and would not let me alone. Its theme arose from the ongoing conflict in contemporary Christianity over recognizing the equal dignity and sacredness of same-sex love relationships. I belong to the Episcopal Church, which has been at the forefront of this debate since we ordained an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2004. As of this writing, the American church has been put on probation by the Worldwide Anglican Communion for authorizing same-sex marriage rites. I was raised by two moms, so I know where I stand, but the issue tore apart some of my Christian friendships and prayer circles.
For research into the fashions and politics of the 1990s, the time period of Two Natures, I consulted the Sexual Minorities Archive (formerly in Northampton, now in nearby Holyoke) and the Conde Nast Library in New York City, as well as many books on the art and business of fashion photography. My friend John Ollom of Ollom Movement Art read the manuscript for accuracy concerning the gay male culture of our generation. John does through dance what I hope to do with my writing: help people integrate their "shadow side" by overcoming shame-based divisions between sex and spirit.
12. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers?
Read a lot. Be sparing about seeking advice on your work. Random people in online forums and writers' critique groups may not know any more than you do.
13. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
In writing fiction from a gay man's perspective, I learned that my sexuality and gender identity were more complex than I had supposed.
14. How many books have you written?
Four that have been published, one forthcoming, and enough drafts buried in a drawer to add up to several more!
15. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer?
Get feedback from a few people who understand your aesthetic, are good writers themselves, and are sympathetic to your book's worldview and values. However, at the end of the day, you are the authority. Trust that little voice inside that tells you whether something rings true or is off-key. As Rick Nelson's song "Garden Party" says, "You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself." Don't be ashamed to fix the off-key parts. They are not a verdict on your worth as a human being.
16. We’ve heard that it is good to provide twists in a good story. How do you do this?
I decide on enough plot structure so I can start out with a purpose, but then allow my characters to surprise me. When they reveal unexpected feelings, actions, or beliefs, I know that that is coming from a deep place of intuition beyond my surface ideas of what the book is about. In the early drafts, I'll follow those trails into the unknown, long enough to find out whether the twist will improve the story.
17. What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
I bring together apparent opposites that cross boundaries of genre and ideology. Two Natures defies expectations that a book with spiritual purpose must be sexually prudish, or that an erotic romance must be lightweight or decadent. Also, I have been writing poetry professionally for 20+ years so I try to bring the same level of lyricism and line-by-line craftsmanship to my prose style.
18. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I share news of my publications and awards in the Winning Writers e-newsletter, on my blog, and on Facebook and Twitter. In consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, "The Frugal Book Promoter", I am working on more focused strategies to promote my novel through social media, e-book giveaways and discounts, readings, and interviews like this one (thanks!).
19. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing) and why?
I would not give away my power to critics.
20. What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Or what saying or mantra do you live by?
"Perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)
END OF INTERVIEW
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