“Wounded Tiger” Mixed Bag, Mixed Genres

wounded-tiger

“Wounded Tiger” A Nonfiction Novel

“Wounded Tiger” is chiefly about Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. This ambitious story opens on December 1941 in Tokyo, where Emperor Hirohito is described as falling weightless from a cliff’s edge, a metaphor for his decision to establish Japan’s dominance over the Pacific and East Asia.

Fuchida is well developed. We see this proud, talented military leader being challenged, disillusioned and transformed: “[H]e… observed the soot-covered poor carting off grotesque corpses, the veil of the elegant theories of war was torn away to reveal the hideous reality of a people enduring unimaginable suffering.”

T Martin Bennett excelled at finding the balance between conveying facts and demonstrating creativity. Authors writing in the hybrid category of nonfiction novel can flout some conventions of either or both genres. I would have appreciated meaningful footnotes or endnotes, an index and a bibliography to bolster nonfiction content. I would have liked a stronger spotlight on narrative arc to find this completely satisfying as a novel.

It’s evident that Bennett amassed a mountain of researched material, and the main story in this, his first novel, is overwhelmingly compelling enough to be, in the right hands, an important movie on a par with “Letters from Iwo Jima.” For that to happen, ruthless editing and disciplined script writing is necessary, especially considering standard movie runtimes. (In fact, Bennett first wrote “Wounded Tiger” as a screenplay.)

Enough material exists in the more than 450 pages of the first edition of the nonfiction novel to be reshaped into several books. As it is, “Wounded Tiger” tries to be too much – biography, history, conversion story, saga, creative nonfiction, novel – in one package. For that reason, I believe “Wounded Tiger” would be of interest to WWII enthusiasts, and have limited crossover appeal.

At times, it seems as though Bennett threw in scenes not to move the plot forward, but rather to remind readers about some of the other characters’ existence. For example, he included short scenes occurring at the Andrus farm in Oregon, where the family of an Air Force pilot who participated in Doolittle’s raid and becomes a POW, copes with the agony of not knowing where he is or if he’s alive.

The half-page final chapter, set in 1950, is given to the young woman whose forgiving nature inspired Fuchida’s conversion to Christianity.

The second edition, according to one of Bennet’s websites, includes 276 photos – there are none in the first edition. The newer edition includes more maps – the rudimentary maps in the first edition add nothing to readers’ understanding of situations that wasn’t adequately explained in the text. The second edition boasts 10,000 more words than the first edition. One hopes that typos littering the first edition were fixed before the second edition was published.

Overall, I liked the first edition and extend kudos to Bennett for his monumental achievement.  Nevertheless, the book could have been better if it were shorter.

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” 

 

 

Turn Life into Income with Creative Nonfiction: Part 2

Beth Fowler headshotPublishers of memoirs, autobiographies, personal essays, travelogues and themed anthologies buy creative nonfiction. So do newspaper and magazine editors. Browse bookstores, including quirky independent stores and university bookstores, to find markets that publish creative nonfiction.

Periodical editors suggest (plead) with authors to “be familiar with our publication before submitting your work.” One creative nonfiction author subscribes to a different literary magazine each year to get a feel for what magazines publish. The flavor of stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series is different from stories in “Rosebud.”

Editors who consider creative nonfiction manuscripts want a strong theme or narrative that serves as a unifying thread through the story. Writers must be disciplined and ruthlessly trim passages that don’t support the theme.

If you think you have a memoir in you, read others’. Larry Brown’s On Fire, J.R. Moehringer’s Tender Bar, and Louis Erdrich’s The Blue Jay’s Dance are examples of the genre.

Carol Crawford, coordinator for the Blue Mountain (North Carolina) Writers’ Conference says, “Write small.” Narrow down the focus of the story to draw readers in. The biggest mistake most beginning nonfiction writers make is giving too much information. To help writers zero in on a theme, Crawford asks writers to sum up their stories in six words.

Crawford offers more advice for creative nonfiction writers. “Journal for catharsis. Craft for story.” Write naked with your back to the world. Forget about readers and editors and publishers on your first draft. Let ‘er rip. Open the gates of emotions. Stick your feet into the sneakers you wore as an 11-year old and let that character’s voice guide your pencil.

Use prompts to get you going. You’ll be amazed at where your creative mind will run once you unleash it. Here are prompts we used in a Creative Nonfiction workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School. (www.folkschool.org) “If only someone had told me about…,” and “Write about being nice to someone you detest,” and “Write about the time the ___________ caught on fire.”

After writing hot and heavy, go back and make design decisions. Erdrich’s design decision in The Blue Jay’s Dance was combining three babies into one character. She states this up front in a contract, so to speak, with the reader.

Creative nonfiction reveals the author and another person or other people clearly, as well as establishing a time and place readers can visualize. Most publishers don’t want lyrical description for the sake of lyrical description. Nor do they want pieces that are emotion only. Something’s gotta happen. Someone’s gotta change. Creative nonfiction, like other well-crafted manuscripts, has a beginning, middle and end. In Your Life as Story, Tristine Rainer suggests writing about a problem, your struggle to resolve it, and the resultant transformation or realization. The main character’s change can be inner as well as outer.

In Cold Blood first appeared in “The New Yorker” in four parts. Papers sold out. Then the nonfiction novel became one of the most talked about books of its time. Dubbed an instant classic, In Cold Blood earned its author millions of dollars and celebrity status.

“Sometimes when I think how good my book can be,” Capote said, “I can hardly breathe.”

Breathe. Write. Edit. Shape your experiences into salable manuscripts.

***

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Turn Life into Income with Creative Nonfiction: Part 1

Beth Fowler headshotBy Beth Fowler, who recently won an award for a creative nonfiction story.

 

In 1959,  Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, two ex-convicts on parole from the Kansas State Penitentiary, robbed and murdered Herb Clutter, Herb’s wife and their two children in their home, in cold blood.

Think of how straightforward and uncreative the Clutter’s newspaper obituary was compared to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Capote said, “I wanted to produce a journalistic novel, something on a large scale that would have the credibility of fact, the immediacy of film, the depth and freedom of prose, and the precision of poetry.” He wanted to produce creative nonfiction.

Capote compiled thousands of pages of researched notes upon which his groundbreaking nonfiction novel was based. He interviewed the murderers. Even so, some of the psychological dynamics between the ex-cons, for example, would have been supposed on Capote’s part.

Creative nonfiction writers use techniques associated with fiction. They shape events into stories. Characters, scenes, dialogue, suspense and plot help transform a person’s experience into one with universal appeal that touches readers. One small event for a person: One great read for people…that’s creative nonfiction.

Most of us won’t be writing about massacres, so what can we write about? Take the advice Capote gave another writer: “You have to be willing to use everything. Everything that’s interesting.”

Creative nonfiction strikes a universal chord. Any aspect of the human experience can be the focus of creative nonfiction. Unforgettable encounters, life’s milestones, disasters, work relationships, marriage, homelessness, substance abuse, parental abandonment …

For insights on molding your experience into a salable work, dig into Judith Barrington’s Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Nancy Davidoff’s Writing from Personal Experience: How to Turn Your Life into Salable Prose Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True, Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story and Bill Roorbach’s Writing Life Stories.

“Creative Nonfiction Journal” offers online classes. The web site says, “Writers at every level can use guidance when it comes to shaping and refining their work. The Creative Nonfiction Mentoring Program pairs you with one of our seasoned, professional editors and writers who will design a program around your writing needs.” Visit Gotham Writers Workshop at www.write.org and Writers on the Net at www.writers.com to find writing classes. The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a non-credit online Creative Nonfiction class. Also, visit http://writing.shawguides.com where you’ll find The Guide to Writers Conferences & Workshops, a free, online directory of programs worldwide.

Publications that print creative nonfiction include:

Granta (www.granta.com)

Grain (www.grainmagazine.ca)

New Letters Magazine (www.newletters.org)

Memoir (and) (www.memoirjournal.net)

Glimmer Train (www.glimmertrain.com)

Rosebud (www.rsbd.net)

The Sun (www.thesunmagazine.org)

Creative Nonfiction Journal (www.creativenonfiction.org)

Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com),

Orion (www.orionmagazine.org)

Chicken Soup for the Soul (www.chickensoup.com)

Five Points (www.fivepoints.gsu.edu)

The Pinch (www.thepinchjournal.com).

Stay tuned for Turn Life into Income with Creative Nonfiction: Part 2

***

 Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

“Life is Binary: The Choice to Live Love or Limitation” – book review

On one of his websites Vivbala himself asks, “Why do we need one more spiritual book?”

The author’s self-published “Life is Binary: The Choice to Live Love or Limitation” is divided into eight chapters which are further divided into subchapters. A dedication, acknowledgements and preface precede the table of contents. There is a reference section at the end. Apart from the colorful images on the cover, there are no other illustrations.

Vivbala starts with his personal awakening story, which in itself is engaging reading. Then he follows it with the insights he received.

Unlike “The Celestine Prophecy” that seems contrived, and some other books by authors who’ve made a business out of selling spirituality, “Life is Binary” is one engineer’s true story. Every writer has a voice, and it is Vivbala’s voice that helps set his book apart from others. He comes across as rational, caring, endearing, earnest and genuine. He’s a regular guy holding down a job and going to performances to watch his daughter dance.

Vivbala skillfully uses analogies and examples to explain his experience, insights and various phenomena such as synchronicity. He writes, “The best analogy I can come up with for what happened to me is the reboot of a computer. In computer systems, when the system starts to behave abnormally or at very low efficiency and there seems to be weird problems happening, the best solution is to reboot the system. A reboot kills all the processes that are running including those that are hanging and clears out the memory. It also deletes all the temporary files used by these processes. When the computer is shut down and restarted, it has a clear processor and memory. Spiritual awakening or near death experiences are nothing but the reboot of your mind and body.”

While reading “Life is Binary” I found myself nodding constantly as I was agreeing with the author’s statements, recognizing myself in his examples, appreciating nuggets of wisdom and realizing that retraining the mind is a life-long process for most of us who yearn to move beyond a limited existence.

Some of the ideas put forth, such as avoiding watching the news because it adds negativity to our lives, are easy to understand and are generally accepted in circles where mental health and well-being are the main focus. That we are immortal will be harder to grasp and believe.

In the final chapter, Vivbala reminds us that spiritual awakening does not come about by reading a book, even so, I wished there would have been more pencil-and-paper exercises to help me identify my patterns, fears, dreams and so forth and to help me apply some of his insights to my life.

Readers who notice typos will find a few, and some of the paragraphs seem mighty long.

If you’ve been reading spiritual development books for very long, you might not find many strikingly new concepts in “Life is Binary,” but that’s not a criticism whatsoever.

What is new and refreshing about this book is the being who is delivering the message and the way he delivers it.

So, why do we need one more spiritual book?

Because there might be at least one person left out there who is still sleepwalking through life. Maybe two.

***

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Before You Write Your Book, Read This

Julie PolandGuest blogger Julie Poland is founder of  SummitHRD and President of the York, PA Chapter of SCORE.  She wrote an e-book, Secret Messages, and self-published the business book Changing Results by Changing Behavior. 

Writing seems to be on a par with networking and speaking engagements right now in popularity – about every other person we talk to has a dream of writing a book.  The process isn’t for everyone, and we’re not even talking about the quality of the writing that you’re capable of producing.  There’s some strategic work that needs to be done at the outset.
A few months ago a panelist in a workshop for would-be writers said, “The only person who should plan to make money writing a book is the person who has already made money writing a book.”  Perhaps this sounds cynical to you.  Perhaps you DO have the new information, the gripping story or the unique twist that will beat the odds.  But you might not – and you need to think about that.  You will invest time, energy, emotion, ego, and some money before you’re through, so in order to go into the project with both eyes open you want to answer a number of questions before you start.

What is your goal for your book?

  • Source of passive income?
  • Marketing tool?
  • Reason for groups to ask you to speak?
  • Credibility builder with prospective clients?

What is your topic or genre?

  • Non-fiction: biography, history, self-help, business, how-to, etc.
  • Fiction: thriller, mystery, humor, romance, historical, etc.

When do you plan to do your writing?

  • Instead of doing other work
  • At night or early in the morning to fit around other responsibilities
  • As fast as possible
  • Over time as information is collected

Are you writing this on your own?

  • By yourself
  • With collaborators
  • Using research
  • With public domain book as foundation

Who will publish it?

  • Mainstream publishing house, with an advance paid to cover costs
  • Vanity publisher
  • Self-published print-on-demand

How will it be marketed?

  • By the publisher
  • Online through Amazon or other avenues
  • By local bookstores and gift shops
  • Given to prospects, not sold (the book itself is not the intended revenue generator)

 Pros & Cons of Self-publishing


One advantage of self-publishing is the control you have over the project.  There is no executive telling you what spin to put on your concept, or mandating a certain length, style, etc.  The flip side of the control issue, though, is that you have responsibility for far more than the writing.  You’ll need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), cover design, page layout, editing, artwork, recommendations from pre-readers to use for marketing, placement in retail locations, transference into multiple formats like audio, e-reader, and so forth.  When you self-publish you’ll lay out the funds for these pieces as you go along, as opposed to the publishing house route, where the house covers the costs and connects you to the resources.

Vanity publishing means that you’ll go through these steps and deliver your product to a publisher with an order for a certain number of books.  The books will be delivered to you and it will be your responsibility to get them to your desired distribution channels.  The more you order, the lower your cost per book.  But you will lay out a chunk of change in exchange for a stock of books that will last you until  ______?

Print on demand enables you to avoid having a stack of books in your closet or in your garage.  Create Space (a division of Amazon), for instance, enables you to upload your book package.  You approve a proof, they give you your ISBN and place your book on their Amazon site.  You can buy a supply of books at a certain cost if you want to have some on hand, and if somebody orders your book on Amazon, the site handles it and mails you a check later for your cut of the sale.

Parting Thoughts
As in any business venture, there’s a difference between working IN your business and working ON your business.  If you are writing with the intention of making money from it, the actual writing is only part of the equation.  You can choose to be more writing-focused if you outsource the production and marketing to a publisher, but for the most part it’s them choosing you rather than you choosing them.  Your story or concept or writing is going to have to give them a compelling reason to invest in you.

All that being said, if you have something you want to say in a book, make your decisions, plan it out and go for it.

How to Interview Someone for an Article (Part 3 of 3)

Submitting the Manuscript

            Submit the manuscript with a cover letter reminding the editor he or she had expressed an interest in it, on-spec, based on your query. If the article was commissioned, mention that. On a separate page list each source’s name, position or job title, interview date(s), telephone number and email address.

Maintaining objectivity is an interviewer’s primary goal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always help writers win friends, but it does influence people. The minute the newspaper with my article about the previous night’s school board meeting hit the streets, the school principal called me. She objected to the way I had written my brief. Still disgruntled, she complained to my editor. He asked her, “Are the facts as reported correct?” “Yes, they are,” the principal admitted.

That saved me. The editor learned he could trust me to report the facts and that I didn’t succumb to real or perceived pressure.

We all appreciate articles brimming with facts, animated by interesting personalities. Conducting interviews can be your route to writing articles readers crave and editors buy.

If this blog was helpful, then “like” and share with other writers who want to get published.

“Follow” this blog to receive more articles for writers who like getting published.

Ken’s War, a YA novel by B.K. Fowler, is slated for publication in 2014 by Melange Books LLC www.melangebooks.com.

How to Interview Someone for an Article (Part 2)

Putting it all Together

            Organizing research and interview notes can seem daunting, plus it’s tempting to cram in as much data as possible into your article. Following a structure helped me condense facts and figures from four books, two essays, an interview and an outing with a falconer down to a 1000-word article.

In the first or second paragraph use a quote containing a surprising or unusual fact and another quote which captures the essence of the person or topic. Avoid opening with a quote because many magazines print the first letter of the first sentence in fancy fonts and colors. The first set of quotations marks become stylized, enlarged or lost.

Put the subject in context. What is so unusual about this person? What led up to this situation? What bearing does this have on readers? In other words, answer the readers’ unspoken question: So what?

Weave historical facts, background information, statistics and emotions and others’ views in with quotations. Develop a rhythm by alternating pro and con views, or present and past, or direct quotations with description.

Wrap-up with a quote summarizing the article’s theme and with another quote that looks to the future. An article by Annette Spahr in Apprise magazine begins, “Captain Kathryn E. Doutt sits at her desk rolling a glass ball.” The article ends, “Perhaps a crystal ball should be consulted.”

Not only does Spahr’s article end with a reference to the future, it also recalls the image of the crystal ball from the first paragraph. This creates a pleasing literary roundness.

As you write, you’ll decide which quotes to use and which to toss out. Use quotes that only the interviewee could have said. Any weight lifter might say, “I eat lots of protein.” Only the champion weight lifter said, “After I added 33% more lean protein to my diet, I won the regional completion.”

Let the subject’s voice show through. This means quoting their specialized vocabulary, idioms and even incomplete sentences. Your narrative will define unfamiliar jargon. Avoid preaching or moralizing (unless that is your job.) Let the subject’s quotations do that.

Vary repetitious he-said-she-saids with partial direct quotes, as in, Mary described herself as an “optimistic fatalist.” Summarize the conversation: Carlos reviewed his plans for reorganizing the department.

Calling interviewees to verify what they said is standard. When possible, verify information with a second source. If Joe said his dad opened the first hotel in Craver County, check county records.

___ ___ ___

“Follow” to receive more helpful articles written for writers who like getting published. To meet characters a reviewer described as “so real you can actually sense their presence,” get the eco-thriller The Universal Solvent at Amazon.com or at www.xlibris.com.

It’s too soon to say much, but next year you’ll have a chance to get your hands on a good novel and donate to a worthy cause at the same time.