publishing


  Pete Gallivan did an absolutely wonderful feature on Buffalo’s WGRZ about my co-author Andrew Bienkowski for Unknown Stories of Western New York. Pete talked about Andy’s banishment to Siberia (in 1939) at only five years of age and how that experience has informed and influenced his life for the past 75 years. There’s even a little cameo from Yours Truly....

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I’m interviewed at the Press 53 blog for the new year. Thank you Christine Norris! http://press53.tumblr.com/post/39928859763/5-questions-3-facts   P53: What is your favorite color, and what does that color mean to you? MA: Green is my favorite color. It always has been, even as a little girl when pink or purple were most often the favorites of my peers. I remember at least one adult trying to tell me that green couldn’t be my favorite color—that little girls liked pink. I also remember thinking, “Are adults really that stupid? My favorite color is my favorite color. Duh.” Yes, I was stubborn, even then. Green is so beautiful to me. The soft, lime, baby-green of new leaves in spring, the deep green of a pine forest that keeps its color all winter, even the fuzzy algae green in a stagnant summer pond just totally speaks to me. Ironically, I don’t wear green much because it doesn’t flatter me at all (my skin has sort of a greenish tinge and the extra green just pushes me over the edge into Nausea-Glam). But I adore it on others. P53: When did you first really feel like a writer? MA: I’m a writer?? Just kidding. But also not. Because it’s hard for me (most days) to feel like a (capital W) Writer, whatever that entails. I’m also a breather, and a sleeper, and an eater, but nobody makes much of those activities. And writing ranks right up there with breathing, eating, and sleeping on my list of Things To Do Today. Anyway, I’m being glib, but I guess my point is that we all write, even if it’s only a grocery list, right? So anyone can “be a writer,” especially in this day and age. I guess a more accurate question might be, “When did I first start to think like a writer?” Because I totally do. Writing is how I process the world. It allows me to pull back from things that confuse me,that I don’t understand, or even that hurt me…and take a calm, collected look at the whole evolution of the thing. It allows me to get in the heads of people I don’t like. It allows me to take an upsetting event and write a different outcome into existence. It allows me the snappy repartee that I’m never capable of in the living moment. Anyway, I probably started to think like a writer as soon as I learned to write. I always understood that stories were not the real world…but I also understood that they created their own world that felt as real to me as the real world. And...

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Big thanks to the fabulous Ellen Meister for tagging me in this latest writer’s meme. I am so looking forward to reading her forthcoming novel Farewell, Dorothy Parker which has been described as “wickedly funny and surprisingly poignant.”   And now, on with the questions for me: What is the working title of your book? Bones of an Inland Sea Where did the idea come from for the book? From the late–and much admired–literary agent Wendy Weil. For years, I’ve been a fan of the work she represented: Anthony Doerr, Andrea Barrett, Molly Gloss, Rita Mae Brown, Alice Walker, Fannie Flagg, and most recently Heidi Durrow. I sent her my first collection and even though she passed on it, she said she would love to see a linked collection that focused on my marine ecology experiences. (I co-founded a study abroad marine ecology program in Dominica, West Indies, and that was in my bio. She was very observant.) I started working on Bones of an Inland Sea that very same day. What genre does your book fall under? I would say it’s literary. I’m calling the manuscript a “composite novel” because many of the stories work alone, but they do interweave extensively and are meant to be read and appreciated as a whole. Other works I would also call “composite novels” would be The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. These are all books I greatly admire. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Oh, my. Too complex a question for this non-moviegoer. How about instead I say who I would like to illustrate the cover of my book? I’d love to use a photo collage by Matthew Chase-Daniel. I adore his work. Maybe something like the image below–one that captures the essence of many smaller perspectives combining to make a more complete image of the whole: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? (Pardon me, please, but I’m going to use the two-sentence description from my query letter.) In BONES OF AN INLAND SEA we come to know passionate and restless Leslie Baxter through the secret lives of a host of characters whose paths intersect with hers, over many years, in locales as varied as the Sinai desert, a tsunami-torn reef in Thailand, Bikini Atoll after the atomic testing, and a futurist island utopia run by a dangerous charismatic leader. Written in a bold and inventive array of styles, Akers captures the longing we all feel for family, home, and a...

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First and foremost, I am a writer. But I have also been Editor-in-chief of the online journal r.kv.r.y. for about a year and a half now. It’s been a wonderful, enriching, exhausting, eye-opening experience. So much so, that I thought it might be valuable to share some of what I’ve learned from my time spent on the other side of the desk. I took on the challenge of editing the journal for three main reasons. First, I had been published by r.kv.r.y. in the past and I liked their mission (literary work on the theme of recovery) and I respected their founding editor Victoria Pynchon a great deal.She loved her journal but found that she didn’t have time anymore to give it the attention she would have liked, so in the summer of 2010 she put out a call on Facebook for someone to take it over. I hate to see good work die out, so I volunteered. Secondly, I have always wanted to be part of the side of publishing that helps authors get their work out into the world. I didn’t want to only be an author clamoring for space herself. I think it’s important for writers to give back to the literary community they belong to, and I saw this as an opportunity to do that. Lastly, and most importantly, I wanted to understand what it was like to be in charge of reading, evaluating, and selecting work and putting together and publishing a final product. In some perverse way, I felt I needed to understand what it was like not only to give authors the good news, but also to give them rejections. By that time in my career I had received thousands of rejections myself, so I knew what it felt like to receive them. Many of my rejections had made me grumble and grouse about editors and their lofty decisions handed down from on high, but intellectually I knew editors couldn’t be so different from me–they were people, many underpaid or volunteers, who were passionate about language, and in it for love rather than money. Well, guess what? I learned that it’s tough to be an editor, mainly (in my case) because I WANT to be open and excited by every single piece of writing I receive. I want to find value in everything that comes across my desk. I believe in nurturing writers and giving them a vehicle for their voices. I wish I had the time and energy to say yes to everyone. But man alive, is that ever an exhausting position to take. I never fully appreciated the side of...

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My “Dear Teen Me” letter goes live today. Thanks to the moderators for this wonderful, important site. Dear Teen Me, Hello! How are you? Wait, I know how you are. You’re struggling with high school in a small, one-stoplight town. You get told you’re “too good” or “stuck up” when all you are is painfully shy. And it’s that row of teenaged boys in their steel-toed boots, flannel jackets, and John Deere ball caps who get to you most, isn’t it? They line the hall outside the gym, rating the girls who walk past: “too skinny,” “big butt,” “bitch.” It’s probably the right decision to live with “stuck up” rather than reveal the truth. Like dogs, the good-ole-boy gauntlet can smell fear. Wait. This is a letter. Let me try again: Wish you were here! Except I don’t. Ronald Reagan is president where you are, long distance phone calls are very expensive, and you think you know everything. No offense, but I don’t want you here. Those 30+ years between us represent a lot of hard-won battles and besides, you’ve only just seen your first Apple computer. You’d be a little behind in my world. (Sigh.) I’m avoiding the purpose of this letter, aren’t I? I’m supposed to impart some wisdom or perspective to you, but I can’t decide: should the advice apply to the you of 1982? Or to the you that will be me in thirty years? I mean, I could help you avoid some seriously stupid mistakes…but I’ve seen enough Will Smith movies to know it’s not a good idea to mess around with the past. Will Smith? Oh, he’s a rapper, turned TV star, turned movie star, turned…never mind. You’ll like him. So, I guess I won’t warn you off any future relationships—they each teach you something and I’d hate for your kids to just—poof—disappear…plus the wrong men ultimately lead you to Mr. Right. So try to be patient. You know, kiddo, I guess I do have one important thing to say—you don’t need bigger boobs. In a few years you’ll discover the push-up bra and your problem will be solved…as far as the world can tell. Anyway, you’ve got good legs, and those can’t be faked, so stop wasting your time fantasizing about all those magic creams. Oh, and one more thing—it pains me tell you this, but—you need to come to grips with the fact that your love isn’t magic. It won’t save you and it won’t save anyone else. I know you want it to, desperately, but those three-legged-dog dreams you keep having? Those are only the start of a lifelong struggle...

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This interview aired on a local TV station in 2009, but most of the discussion revolves around about the process and the art of writing, which are timeless subjects.

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