In the last several months, TYCWP Board has heard wonderful ideas for book proposals to Chalice Press. The Project has had an imprint relationship with Chalice since 2008, and Chalice has published seven books (find them here) with TYCWP. An imprint relationship means that the YCW Board helps Chalice read and filter proposals to send to their editing board for publishing consideration. For books that do get published, TYCWP receives some royalties, which supports the mission of the Project.
Writing a proposal and/or a book for a real-life publishing company can seem like a daunting process. TYCWP has several members who have successfully completed publishing a book through Chalice. Mihee Kim-Kort, author of Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology, offers her perspective on what to expect in the process of writing a book. Brenda Lovick, who serves as the Chalice liaison, crafted some questions for Mihee to consider.
Brenda: How do you know if you have a good idea to write a book?
Mihee: Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they seem like epiphanies that drop out of the sky into your lap. Sometimes they’re like seeds. Sometimes they’re the tip of an iceberg, and the deeper you go you discover that there’s so much more to it and your very life is intertwined with it.
Talk with people that know you. You want to pursue something that is close to your heart, mind and spirit because it will take a lot out of you, and you need support. Ultimately, it’ll be up to you to commit – so no matter what the idea – go for it if you feel the fire in your bones. Put it out into the universe and see what comes back.
Brenda: How do you do it all? Spouse, mom, career, and write? Where do you find time to do it?
Mihee: I do everything kind of half-assed, honestly. That’s what it feels like. But, I try to integrate everything. I try to double up – if I’m writing a blog post that can be used in multiple places, that’s awesome. Or a germ of an idea might be found in a number of writings. Time is not very gracious or accommodating, but you do what you can do with the minutes or hours.
Ultimately, there’s no one way to do it. One day I’ll write for 15 minutes. Another day, a few hours. Maybe it will be in the morning. Maybe at 2 in the morning. It’s not easy and not everything will be good (actually, most of it is shit). It’s usually just not that pretty or romantic. But Anne Lammott writes some hard-but-good words about writing first drafts (in Bird by Bird, which I highly recommend for life, in general). All writing is not readable or useable, but writing – the practice and act of writing – is always good. You’re developing your voice, you’re developing habits, you’re shaping your craft.
Brenda: What makes a good proposal?
Mihee: Being clear as possible. Being passionate and authentic. Being thorough.
Brenda: What happens after your proposal is accepted?
Mihee: After you kind of freak-out, pass out, get drunk and celebrate or do whatever, you get down to brass tax and figure out the details about deadlines, time tables, and if you’re editing a book with numerous contributors, figuring out who’s writing for you.
There’s a lot of back and forth with one of the acquisitions editors and nailing down the actual book contract. At this point it’s helpful to have a second pair of eyes to look over the contract. Some signatures and mailing it off…then, you get yourself at your desk and start writing (if you don’t have a complete manuscript). There will be instructions about format and footnotes – read carefully.
Otherwise take it a step, a sentence, and chapter at a time. Ask questions if there’s ever any uncertainty about anything!
Brenda: What do you think is the most important thing for a new or potential author to know before writing a proposal or book?
Mihee: Be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect to write a best-seller or manifesto or for it to be totally representative of who you are and your life right now. But, do be invested in it and expect it to consume most of your life. It’s going to be a labor of love. It’s an incredible experience and process, and if you have writing in your DNA then it’s going to be worth it.
Do you have an idea and want to submit a proposal? To learn more about the process of writing a proposal, click here.