No, it is not a little blue woman from Mars (although that would be totally cool, too.)
Today my humble little site is part of Fran Metzman’s promotional blog tour for the release of her short story collection: THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES.
Each of the twelve stories in Fran’s collection involves food as a means to fulfillment (If it were me, it would be a book all about chocolate) 🙂
Without further ado, let’s welcome the lovely and talented Fran Metzman!
Hello Fran, and welcome to “Learn from my Mistakes”
***Imagine Fran smiling and waving madly***
This site is dedicated to new and soon to be published authors. At the end of this interview, would you be willing to answer questions from inquiring minds?
Fran: Yes. I would be delighted.
Great! Keep that in mind, guys. Okay, let’s get started.
Fran, would you tell us about the first time you were published.
Fran: I consider this publication of THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES, as my first, as it is actually the first one published with only my own name. The other was co-written. In UGLY COOKIES and THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES, each story deals with relationship issues – a theme that has always intrigued me.
What part of relationships intrigues you so much?
Fran: We are all trying to find a level of satisfaction in relationships and it is common to feel cheated at some point in our lives. We yearn to fill emotional voids. I want to answer the question – how far will we go to find a relationship that answers deep-rooted needs?
As a writing teacher, what do you see as a re-occurring problem you need to “teach out” of new writers. What are the common mistakes they make?
Fran: I do encourage people to write from the heart, but all too often that is where they want to stop. In my opinion, it is vital to understand the structure of fiction writing because in today’s world of publishing whether it is non-fiction, memoir and even journalism, they are expecting the works to follow the form of fiction. Once a writer has that under his/her belt they have the option of experimenting. It’s like art – you must understand the structure of the body in order to sculpt or paint a figure before going on to other genres.
Can you explain that a little more? Do you mean “fitting into a set mold” or is there a certain structure that is undeniably necessary?
Fran: I don’t mean for anyone to be locked into a particular writing style. My undergraduate degree was from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and I was a sculpture major. When we learned how to draw a person we did it step-by-step. First we did a skeleton then laid a clear sheet on top and did the muscles and sinews next. The final plastic sheet presented with skin, face, hands and toes. It was a process that enabled us to understand the structure of the body so that all parts were anatomically correct. Once we understood that, we could use that information to evolve into our own thing.
Interesting. How did this help to make you a better writer?
Fran: Figures differ but when the different body parts are out of scale it disturbs the visual rhythm the same way the written format may become unbalanced. For instance, if there is too much description that goes on for pages you will, in all probability, lose your reader unless you have presented such a strong, unique voice that we get lost in the work. That doesn’t happen often. Once you have an understanding of the structure, you can experiment.
Wow. Not too many of us have the experience of learning art in that way, and can relate that to our writing. Interesting insight. How do you think a new writer can get there, without sculpting in clay?
Fran: Write regularly on a set schedule even if it is only once a week. WRITE!
Tell us about your first novel “Ugly Cookies”.
Fran: I co-wrote UGLY COOKIES with Joy Stocke based loosely on several short stories that seriously involve parental/child relationships, romance and feminist ideals. It also has a sub-plot of prejudices toward the elderly, something that has become a hot topic nationally today.
What was your reaction when you first saw a “real” printed copy? What did you do?
Fran: Seeing that book in print thrilled me and made me incredulous at the same time. Was that my name on the cover? How could that have happened? It had a dream like quality to it. But that didn’t last long as we had to immediately get into the huge amount of work involved in publicity.
I’ve had a lot of discussions with people, and this is what they are most worried about… Promoting. What did you do to publicize?
Fran: It has changed so dramatically from the time my first novel was published about 10 years ago. Now it is VIRTUAL TOURS. Book chains and many independents have folded in the interim and fewer people attend live readings. We have generations who are constantly on computers, texting, googling, IPhoning, game playing, and connected tightly to screens for a myriad of reasons. The new way of publicizing is not easy for someone like myself who still prefers hard copies of books.
It’s okay, you’re doing fine. We bloggers are a friendly group. What’s been the hardest part about cyber-publicizing?
Fran: Today it’s all about being online for links, connections, websites, tags, Facebook, Twitter and the plethora of connections online. This consumes mammoth amounts of time as I worry when will I get back to writing.
Piff! Speaking to the choir, my friend! Let’s talk about some awards. “My Inheritance” was nominated for a Dzanc Books Award for Best of the Web. Was that a surprise? What do you think made it stand out from the others?
Fran: That story has always impacted me emotionally, but I was a bit surprised as there are so many mother/daughter stories out there. It is a sensitive subject and many women choose it as a topic. I hoped I had a somewhat different spin on it. I did know someone who went into therapy when her mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I didn’t know any details, just had this nugget. So the story is a total fiction. But as in all my stories, there is a seeking for redemption.
You just released “The Hungry Heart Stories”. Each short story in the collection relates to food in some way. Why did you choose food as a theme?
Fran: My own mother was a sensational cook and baker. It was a major way for her to express her love. When I came home from school the house was filled with the most delectable scents, oh those wonderful peach pies. There are a couple of downsides and one is that I was a chubby kid. The other was refusing food could be a serious problem in my house. I believe, my mother interpreted it as a rejection. So, I learned to eat every morsel put on my plate.
Tee Hee. It was the same way in my house, but since my Mom was raised during the Great Depression, it was more “There are children starving somewhere” rather than a rejection thing. Did this affect your eating habits as a grown-up? Personally, I cannot TOUCH beef stew, asparagus, or boiled spinach.
Fran: Indeed, I developed bad eating habits. If you eat every bit on your plate beyond the point where you are full, it is just unhealthy excess. For years I have had to be very careful to get that under control. It is a fight every day not to overeat or eat the wrong foods. For years I didn’t eat strawberries (I do now) because my mother insisted I eat her cake that had strawberries in it. I wasn’t hungry and I sat for two hours staring at it. Finally, I gobbled it up so I could go out and play.
I’m looking at the cover of THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES. There is a woman gazing into the distance. It feels like she is old to me, or maybe taking a step out of time. Also, there is no food to be seen. Is there some underlying symbolism there?
Fran: The woman on the cover was to represent women of all ages who are yearning to fill an emotional void in their lives. She looks into the distance, hoping to find some answers. That kind of void is threaded throughout the stories, but the protagonists are all pro-active in trying to backfill a hunger yet to be satisfied. Some go to the edge to fulfill what they perceive as the missing piece that once found will make their lives whole. But in seeking to resolve this lack of fulfillment – they might go to the edge.
After having been through the publishing process twice, what little snippet of advice would you give to soon to be published authors?
Fran: The publishing industry is, as everyone knows, very, very tough. This is where knowledge of fictional structure pays off. You have to submit a near perfect piece in order to get it published. The time is long gone when an author could say that something they wrote needs some work but publishers have editors for that. The industry has leaned down so that there are fewer editors and little time to do overhauls.
So, do you think everyone should look into a professional editor before they even submit a manuscript? Does that go for submitting to agents, too, or just publisher direct?
Fran: Yes, a near perfect manuscript is expected from agents and editors. Since an agent doesn’t make money until they sell the book, they are especially reluctant to spend time trying to make it pitch perfect for publishers. As for professional editors, that could be expensive. If you can afford it, I say go for it. Check the editor out as well to make sure they are good. If money is an issue, find a friend who is an educated reader for content and clarity. If they are grammarians or can edit well — even better. Workshopping with a group of writers is also very helpful.
Other than editing, do you have any other advice?
Fran: Not only does it have to be in excellent shape, the beginning has to be a grabber.
There you have it… words of wisdom from author Fran Metzman. Thanks for stopping by Fran!
I am now opening it up for questions. If you have a question for Fran, just post it in comments below.
Fran Metzman Author Bio
Award-winning author Fran Metzman is a graduate of the Moore College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to publishing numerous short stories and two novels, she also teaches writing at various local colleges and universities. Her blog “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” can be found at Wild River Review.
THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES
Wilderness House Press
ISBN 978 0 9827115 5 2
On Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/7xgqgsn
On Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/6pubq6c
Ugly Cookies: http://tinyurl.com/7tod2er
The Age of Reasonable Doubt: http://www.wildriverreview.com/metzman/
Wild River Review: http://www.wildriverreview.com/
“My Inheritance”: http://www.wildriverreview.com/FICTION/My-Inheritance/Fran-Metzman
Want more Fran? Visit these great sites, also hosting this tour with reviews and more interviews.
Monday, February 13th
“Welcome to Hell” by Glenn Walker
Tuesday, February 14th
“Writing – Art – Metaphysics” by Shelley Szajner
Wednesday, February 15th
“BeccaButcher’s Blog” by Becca Butcherhttp://beccabutcher.wordpress.com/
Thursday, February 16th
“GilbertCuriosities” by Marie Gilbert
Friday, February 17th
“The Author-in-Training” by Mieke Zamora-Mackay
Saturday, February 18th
“A Reference of Writing Rants for Writers or “Learn from My Mistakes” by Jennifer M. Eaton
Sunday, February 19th
“GilbertCuriosities” by Marie Gilberthttp://gilbertcuriosities.blogspot.com/
Monday, February 20th
“BeccaButcher’s Blog” by Becca Butcherhttp://beccabutcher.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, February 21st
“The Dream Between” by Robin Renee
Wednesday, February 22nd
“Literary Debauchery” by Krista Magrowski
Thursday, February 23rd
Wrap up with Glenn Walker
Great interview. Fran, I like the idea of being out of alignment and striving for balance in our writing.
Thank you both!
Heidi It’s sometimes so hard to be objective about our own writing — at least for me. So, that balance is tricky. It’s often good to leave the work for a while and then go back and read aloud. Our ear can pick up what’s jarring. It’s just one trick, but again, it’s all about the striving. Thanks for your comment. I’m always happy to hear from people and answer any questions. fran
Jennifer You are still rocking! fran
PS to question — there was no particular part of the process worse than other. They were all tough! As for rejection, you have to develop a tough skin. Happy to answer any questions. fran
Just wanted to run another quick thank you by to everyone, especially to Jennifer for this great interview, and to poor internet-handicapped Fran, whose vacation I interrupted to make her go back to the computer instead of trudging up mountains. Seriously, I love ya, Fran, and sorry I butt in on your time away.
Everyone else, I love Jennifer’s blog, because it’s given me the chance to meet so many new writers and enjoy their blogs as well!
Glenn It was a pleasure having you butt in on my vacation. Everyone goes to bed early and that gives me time to reply. Your timing was great for the publication date. My vacation had to be times to my daughter’s schedule and this was it! THANK YOU SO MUCH. You took so much time and effort to do this and I am eternally grateful. And to all who interviewed/reviewed, and those who took time to comment — a deep and heartfelt thanks. fran
Please throw me additional questions from anyone who has something they want answered. I’d be happy to help. I love the interaction. f
and a round of applause to Glenn for doing the massive amount of worK to get this Blog Tour going with such wonderful interviewers/reviewers/responders. And especially for trying to cover my back when I began my trip and he didn’t hear from me for two days. You are great!!! THANKS ALL. FRAN
TO KFORD2007 – ON ONE OF THE MORE PAINFUL QUESTIONS/ANSWERS — HOW DO I HANDLE REJECTION? I CRY (not really). I actually have developed a semi-thick skin. I sulk for a while and then get going on sending to others. Just about everyone I’ve sent out (and sent several many times over) have been published. I think eventually you hit the editor that likes your style. But it is a process — like grinding wheels by hand. When I got a story published in one of the top 50 literary journals in the US, I thought I had arrived. No more rejections. WRONG. I still got those rejections but the more I built up my credits on publishing, the easier it got. Make your cover letter as professional as possible.
Another thing that happened was I had won an award from a journal and gave the date. The editor said the journal was out of business on the date I gave. She was WRONG and I wrote to tell her that and gave proof. Never heard from her again. But it’s a funny business. Try to chose publications that like your style or genre. Of course you use the rejections to get better and better — and keep sending out. It’s hard for writers to know if they got the best deal for a book especially since we’re all so hungry to publish. You might try to find an entertainment lawyer familiar with writers and if low on funds appeal to their better nature to give a better price. Might not work but worth a try.
Glenn Hope you’re still with me. My computer is tied to my hip no matter where I go it comes along! YOU GUYS ALL ROCK — GLENN, MARIE, SHELLEY, JENNIFER, BECCA, MIEKE — YOU ARE ALL COOL, SMART AND INSIGHTFUL!
WON’T YOU ALL PLEASE BE MY FRIEND AND COME OUT TO PLAY? NO KIDDING, WE CAN HAVE BEAUTIFUL CONVERSATIONS. fran
PS AND THE SAME TO THOSE WHO SENT IN COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS!
Gloria I meant to say……”…I didn’t have an agent for the collection of short stories and instead said “I didn’t have an author….” But It’s midnight here in Phoenix where I’m visiting and it was a busy day — does not negate that I am enjoying answering these question. It’s nice and quiet at night. I do all kinds of things like writing bills, jotting notes but not in-depth writing. fran
Gloria You did throw a good bit my way but I will try to answer all because they are compelling questions. The weaving of all the stories is about yearning to fill emotional voids and no matter who we are, where we are I believe it is a universal hunt to fulfill the emptiness we might feel in our hears. Food in my stories intersects and maybe because it was big in my life. I didn’t have an author for THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES. I had published 3 short stories on an online journal Wilderness House Literary Review and was asked to bring more to the table to compile a collection. I have published almost all of them in hard copy literary journals in the past. It was great to see them come together. Novel, on the other hand almost always require an agent in today’s market. That’s another story and a tough one. fran
Jamie Yes, Jennifer did a superb job in interviewing and encouraging me to be thoughtful. Sometimes we plow through the days without stopping to capture important moments and Jennifer did that for me. “Some food for thought” hit it right on. If you have any questions by all means ask away. fran
Sherry I like your approach to balance in writing — translated to balance in your life. I seem a bit more successful when I’m balancing in writing than in reality. It’s so much easier to teach that kind of balance. It’s about dialogue, pacing, narrative, showing and it all must be sewn together until seamless. But I’m working on the picking battles in real life and putting aside the ones that should count. I’m trying. fran
Char Do you have any specific questions for me? I’d be glad to answer them. fran
Jennifer I had my rest — actually 1 day of travel and one day to see family. Now I’m raring to go.
You interview of me was truly terrific and you motivated me to think carefully about my approach to writing. I had to dig deeply which can only help my writing. I think in all writing we must go to that mysterious place within that usually manifests in unfathomable dreams in any way we can. fran
Hello, guys. I just wanted to let you know that Ms. Fran has not deserted us. She is on a well-deserved vacation.
She will be jumping back to answer your questions after she rests up a bit.
Fun interview. I’ll just come back later to see how Fran answers the questions above (which are some of mine).
Jennifer and Fran, great interview.
Fran, I see the need for balance everywhere. How we juggle our priorities, how we set our goals, how we operate day to day, and, as you say, how we balance narration, description and action on the page.
I’m a huge Margie Lawson fan (some may say a disciple) and learned that balance in my writing from her EDITS system, and then applied the notion of balance to my life. Wow. What a difference.
I love how you used the little picture icons for your interview, super cute:) And what great advice she gave us, some food for thought! Just FYI, I’m doing a first page critique w/ opportunity to win one from author Heather Burch. If you’re interested, hop on over to my site! ~Happy Saturday
Waving “hi!” to Jennifer and Fran. Great interview, I love the thread you wove through the stories in your book, Fran.
Did you choose to go the agented route and, if yes, did you specifically target agents actively acquiring new authors in multi-genres? In your case, novels and short story collections.
In mine, Contemporary Single Title Romance and Middle Grade series.
Where did you find your agent or editor? Queries? Conferences? Referrals?
Congratulations on the launch of you new book. It sounds like a fascinating read.
Hi Gloria, it’s Glenn, Fran’s deft computer savvy right hand. I just wanted to let you know that we were giving away a free copy of The Hungry Heart Stories on this virtual book tour, and you are the winner! Please contact me at glenn_AT_comicwidows.com so I can get your details to send the book out to you. And thanks for the great comments and questions!
To answer your question — I query agents only for full length novels. Short stories — I go directly to publishers. Agents usually won’t take short story collections unless giant names! Yes, one or two stories did get rejected until I found the right editors for journals that liked my style and story genre. You get used to rejections and keep sending out to those journals that you think might be interested in your style and genre. fran
I loved the interview and learned so much from it. As always, Jennifer, you rock.
Thanks for the great interview, Jen.
Fran, I was wondering. Did you query agents or publishers for The Hungry Heart Stories? What did you find to be the most difficult part of that process? Were you ever rejected for any now-published works? If so, how did you push past the rejection and move on? How do you know if you got the right deal for your book? Thank you for your time.
Every time I tune in to your blog, Jennifer, I am both educated and entertained, and I’m especially happy with that combination with this entry. Thank you for this terrific interview and the cool imagery. You rock.