Tag Archives: Against the Tide Books

REVISIONS! REVISIONS! #%!!@

I felt my manuscript was finished. I had been searching for an editor for months. Suddenly and unexpectedly things fell my way. A friend in New York contacted me. “It’s possible, but not certain,” she said, “that I can connect you with an esteemed editor. Cross your fingers.” A week later, she called back. “I think we’re good!” My stress factor went from zero to ten in a nanosecond. I needed to have everything in order.

The editor was coming to Detroit on business and we arranged to meet. I frantically prepared. I had a full manuscript, a cover and a title: Between Two Worlds: A Mother’s Battle Against Injustice. All I was looking for was a professional finishing touch but I wanted it to be perfect and I was willing to work for it. I felt that I had drafted the perfect query letter, through-line and book description, and I had worked on my chapter summaries for months. We sat at a Detroit restaurant. I was nervous as she looked me over. My right leg was going numb.

“I brought,..” I began, pulling out my folder of perfect documents. “I don’t want to see those today,” she responded. “I want to talk about you.” Well, the “talking about me” was extensive. We chattered at dinner and followed up by phone. She would be sending me a personality test and wanted to know about my writing habits. I literally was applying for the privilege of working with her.

Once my tests were analyzed, we discussed the results. “Joann,” she said, “I will agree to work with you on two conditions: that your story be brought up-to-date pertinent to the times we live in, and drop the Catholic guilt thread about being too busy for your children that runs through the pages.” This was just the beginning.

One day, she asked me to read my manuscript again and tell her what I thought. I perceived it in a totally new light. “It’s like a sailboat, skimming across the water.” “Exactly,” she said. Now, let’s fix it.” Since that moment, I have spent almost two years revising, deepening, and using closed eye voice-recordings to assist in documenting events that I found difficult to write about. Then I transcribed and boldly placed these in my story. Throughout this period, my editor requested essays about pertinent topics to better convey the depth of my personal journey.  I’ve worked intensely, writing and rewriting.  In the process, I have grown as a writer and as a person.

My story was almost ready last fall, totally reworked and redirected and then, Donald Trump was elected. I was flailing around in disbelief and dismay that my work had become outdated, that I had missed my opportunity. I was too late. My editor responded: “This is a gift to your writing. Teach people how to resist, and so I revised again working over these additional ten months and through the horrific loss of my husband. I persisted; I revised and revised again. When it was all said and done, I chose a new title consistent with my reworked manuscript.

My manuscript is more pertinent, more focused and deeper, due to those REVISIONS. #%!!@

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

Please click “follow” at the top right of this document and keep up-to-date on my publication time-line. You won’t want to miss this.

WHAT MY WRITING ROOM LOOKS LIKE

Last week, I wrote about plotting my story at the beginning of my book effort.  Today, more years later than I like to admit, I am assessing what has survived to the end. As I await the  final draft of my manuscript for the approval that will send it to the publisher, I have time to look about me and consider a question from a curious reader, “What does your writing room look like?”

Usually, I try to avoid this topic because my answer may be a bit depressing to an aspiring writer. There’s no beauty in my writing room, no scents, no music, no comfy writing chair. My my writing room looks like me: serious, hard-working, no frills, no comforts. But I am possessed with a dogged-determination to succeed. We feel it here: Detroiters never quit.

In front of my computer is a black, hard-backed, folding chair that I like better than those soft office types. I’m sitting there now and I invite you to look around with me. I will begin our tour to the left of my desk. At the far left, on the floor, are three large plastic tubs containing reference materials. Many of them are copies from Mike’s and my papers that are on file at the Walter Reuther Library Archives at WSU. Along with these essentials are stacks of journal articles, book reviews, and a file box of contacts and contracts. Books are scattered about.

Moving clockwise around the room one will notice that on the wall, I’ve taken down my plotting paper and stickies, which were the topic of my last blog, and replaced them with a piece I wrote on becoming an activist. It is pasted on the wall in a plastic sleeve, and begins: “How My Story Will Contribute to Understanding…what an activist is, how an activist operates, makes decisions, and pays the price,” followed by ten bullet points. And ultimately, “What I have learned in the process.” These were always on my mind, and in front of my face, as I wrote.

In a pile to the left of my computer are major documents that I consistently refer to. These include my book description, the table of contents and a copy of the vows I wrote for Mike’s and my re-commitment ceremony on our 35th wedding anniversary. My book is, after all, also a love story. Finally, there is a copy of a poem my editor sent me, titled: “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk” by Portia Nelson. It reminds me that I’m not the only one who keeps making the same mistakes over and over.

To the right of my computer are folders holding consent forms signed by those who graciously permitted me to cite their pertinent written work or photos. Somewhere buried in this pile of papers are copies of difficult sections that I tried so hard to get right, a book listing my computer passwords that I can never remember, and a fat folder, marked “expenses.” At the far right, forcing me to stand up to retrieve documents, is my printer. My phone is also placed across the room. Without these mandates to move, I would turn to stone.

My attention moves again clockwise to the couch, where my corrections and proof-reading notes, all coded by color, are filling my husband’s empty seat. This is where he watched TV and listened to me banter and rave when I couldn’t get things right. He also functioned as my first-line proof-reader, and he could spell any word in the dictionary. Mike was my most ardent supporter in getting this book done. I’m trying to refocus after losing him.

After staring at the computer screen, I pause to blink and look out the window. There I see Detroit’s aging main post office, the undeveloped West Riverfront Park, the Salvation Army, the Sixth Street ramp, the infamous train station and several boarded up buildings. In the distance are the spires of St Anne’s historic church and the entrance lanes to the Ambassador Bridge. That’s it, that’s Detroit, and that’s me. And that’s what my writing room looks like.

I would love to know what YOUR writing room looks like. Please “leave a reply” at the top of this page and share your experience.  

MY NEW BOOK IS COMING SOON                            

What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist.

Click “follow” at the top right of this page for updates on publication.

MOTHER FOUND AT THE HENRY FORD

Ken Car Mother FoundYou all know the slogan. All Michigander’s do: “You haven’t lived until you…” followed by some Michigan international destination like “Greenfield Village”. It was always easy to gauge how well you know the state by these monikers. When they changed the name of Greenfield Village to “The Henry Ford,” I was totally lost. But now, for a very personal reason, I’m getting found again.

You see, I’m the mother of seven children. They are all equally precious to me. Every once in a while, one of my children will do something publically noted that gives me permission to boast a bit about their contribution to the world. This time, the evidence can be found at Greenfield Village… Oops, excuse me, I mean, The Henry Ford.

My oldest son, Ken, is a mechanical engineer. He grew up the kind of kid who couldn’t keep his hands out from under the hood. I think his first word was ‘car’ which soon grew into ‘car racing’. Currently, Ken is Vice-President of an Ann-Arbor company that makes prototypes and tests parts for transportation and motorsports.

A few years ago, Ken joined a team competing for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, a $10 million competition aimed at advancing technology for more fuel-efficient vehicles. More than 111 teams from all over the world worked to build a car that achieved 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent.

Ken’s company developed the engine for Edison2, winner of the Mainstream class of the Automotive X-PRIZE with its 100+ MPG car of the future – Very Light Car. This car is on permanent display in the Henry Ford Museum Automotive Exhibit at (Yes, I’ve got it now) The Henry Ford.  Take a look next time you visit: Edison2 – the Very Light Car.

Won’t you join us on our journey, click ‘follow’ on this website and we will keep you updated on our adventures.

VIOLA LIUZZO LOVED HER CHILDREN ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR A BETTER WORLD

On Sunday, April 12th, Mike and I had the honor and the privilege of meeting the children of civil rights martyr, Viola Liuzzo. Viola’s tragic death in Selma, Alabama in 1965 was the event that brought me into the civil rights movement.  In many ways, Viola was like me, a local white woman raised Catholic, with five small children. She was an empathic woman with a big heart and when the call went out to support those brutally assaulted as they marched for voting rights, Viola headed to Alabama

On March 25th, as Viola was shuttling marchers back to Selma, she was murdered on the highway by members of the Ku Klux Klan. In the car, was an FBI informant who later bragged about the killing. The FBI went on to smear Viola’s name and attempt to destroy her family.  Somehow, I felt a kinship with Viola and I understood why she was compelled to go to Selma. In a sense, that week in 1965, I stepped into the movement to take her place.

Mike Viola Liuzzo's children

Mike with Viola Liuzzo’s children.

This month, in Detroit, Viola’s family was given a hero’s welcome on the 50th anniversary of her death. She was posthumously awarded a degree at Wayne State University where she was a student. Among the many events in her honor, was a Morris Dees lecture at Wayne State Law School, a tribute at Macomb Community College, and a celebration of her life at the Unitarian Church on Wayne State’s Campus. A park near her home in Northwest Detroit was re-dedicated in her honor.

Mike and I are grateful for the opportunity to converse with four of her children. It has been a difficult road for them as they struggled to vindicate their mother’s image from slander by the FBI. “She prepared us,” their daughter Mary told us. “It was the way she raised us.” “Thank you, Mom. You loved us enough to fight for a better world.”

Please click  ‘follow’ on this website and join Mike and I on our journey.

Personal Histories in the Struggle for Justice.