Author Archives: Annette Martin

Annette Martin

About Annette Martin

Annette Martin was born in Newfoundland in 1943 and has fond memories of growing up in a small community at a time "when everybody's mother was your mother." She earned degrees from Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of New Brunswick and Acadia University, and has worked in schools in both Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. She volunteered for Second Story Women's Centre and SHAID (Sheltering Helpless Animals in Distress) during the early development of these organizations and currently volunteers for the Food Bank. Although she has always loved to write—"I was the weird kid who liked to get an essay assignment for the weekend,"—Annette began to write seriously after retirement in 1996. She is currently working on her first novel, The Alder Bed.

Seven Years, Five Editors, Four Publishers: How I’m Writing My Novel

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Ever wonder what it takes to write, edit and sell a novel? While there are a few overnight-success stories, most authors work very hard to produce a manuscript and get it noticed. Annette Martin published an excerpt from her novel-in-progress in Understorey Magazine in 2014. But she started writing long before that—and she’s still working to revise her manuscript and find a publisher. Here’s one woman’s story of writing and selling a novel.

Many years ago, after retiring from the school system, I had the gist of an idea for a story. I doodled at it here and there but had no real plans for publishing or even finishing it. I just enjoyed writing. Always had. But seven years ago I got a bit more serious.

By 2012, the story was finished. Almost 500 pages. What to do with it? The Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland (WANL) gave me a list of editors and said they’d pay half of the editing fee. I contacted one of the editors.

In 2013, that editor sent me a very long list of suggestions. I revised accordingly and sent it to another editor through WANL. This second one sent the manuscript back with another long list of recommendations, one of which was to “save some for the sequel.” I figured this meant I rambled too much. My story (I had trouble calling it a book) was too long.

In 2014 and 2015, I got even more serious. I chopped pieces out, twisted things around and found I really liked revising. I thought I’d like to have it edited by someone in Nova Scotia as that’s where I now live. I contacted the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and found another editor. She did three readings. Many revisions later, I was ready to try some publishers.

I sent sample chapters to three publishing companies and the whole manuscript to another publisher, all in Newfoundland as that’s where the story is set. (But then, I enjoy and relate to books from Sweden, Norway—love Jo Nesbo—and other places so why did I think that way?)

Of these Newfoundland publishers, I never heard back from one (I later learned that they never received the manuscript). Many months later, a second said no, flat out. But then—a ray of hope. In April 2015, Creative Publishing emailed to ask if they could give the manuscript to an outside reader. In August, after I phoned to check in, they sent the reader’s comments to me by email. There were many good suggestions but he or she suggested I find yet another editor! The reader thought I should work on aspects like the inner thoughts and voice of the characters.

I sent the manuscript to an editor in British Columbia (I was really branching out). It was August 2015 and I was working in a more disciplined way. After two readings by this editor—and more chopping—I sent it back to Creative. They responded in June 2016: The manuscript was improved but still not ready.

Somewhere along the way, I also sent it to a publisher in Nova Scotia. They said, “It doesn’t fit with books we have in mind at this time,” or something like that. I am really not sure what that means.

Back to the revisions. I’m getting really good at revising and still enjoy, it by the way. (Teachers have the correcting gene.) I emailed another editor, the fifth, and last July her comments arrived. She wondered if I might reverse the order of a few chapters. I thought about this and decided it wasn’t necessary. She also said the opening was weak and I have to agree. I’ve changed it many times and I’m still not happy.

The manuscript is now down to 325 pages. I figure I’ve discarded enough characters and plots and pages for two more books. I do appreciate the many things I’ve learned from all the editors. (Who knew you have to leave quotation marks out at the end of a paragraph if the same person is speaking in the next one? I’ve read thousands of books and never noticed that.)

I plan to fix the beginning and send it off to a few more publishers. If nothing happens, I’ll self-publish. Or I’ll throw it in a barrel and set fire to it….

The Alder Bed

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Annette Martin’s novel-in-progress is set in outport Newfoundland and spans five decades. As a headstrong teenager, Lexie Fisher marries wayward Dan and quickly has three daughters, Iris, Rose, and Daisy. Newfoundland winters, poverty, and Dan’s drinking slowly fray Lexie’s mind. Her young daughters must assume adult roles—of one sort or another. Understorey Magazine is pleased to present an excerpt from The Alder Bed.

The Alder Bed: Chapter Twenty

By the spring of ’31, Mother’s behavior was becoming worrisome. Rose was nine years old, she was seeing that her mother was not well in some way. At times Mother was very childlike, she’d try to join in with Rose and Daisy and the Miller girls when they were playing Snakes-and-Ladders, or push she’d herself into line when they were jumping rope. And worse, she was slipping out of the house and wandering aimlessly around the community.

“People are talking about her, Rose,” Daisy grumbled. “I heard some boys making jokes about her.”

One cold, windy March day, Mother jumped out of her chair and headed for the door. Rose and Daisy followed to make sure she was alright. They’d given up trying to make her stay home, she’d get hysterical and fight them.

As they went up over the hill past Aunt Molly’s house, Molly called out from the doorway. “Daisy, Rose, it’s freezing, couldn’t you keep her home?” The answer to that became clear when Mother walked on past without a word, her face grim. “Hang on, then,” Molly said, running back into the house. She came out with an old black coat, caught up with Mother and somehow managed to get the coat around her.

A parade of lost souls, they straggled up the hill past Martin’s Medder and on down into the Cove. They’d just passed Howley’s Pond when Mother stopped dead in her tracks and turned around. “Thank God,” Daisy said, “I was afraid we were gonna end up in Heart’s Content.”

As they started back, a gust of wind caught the tail of Mother’s black coat, pushing it up like a cape. She began to flap her arms up and down. “Caw, caw. I’m a crow, a big, black crow. Caw, caw.”

Alarmed, Rose looked to Daisy for help. “Let’s just get her home before anyone sees her,” Daisy said. They had just made it to the Five Roads when Daisy groaned, “Oh, God, there’s a woman coming up the road. And a man coming from the Square.”

Caw, caw,” Mother squealed, flapping her arms energetically.

Raven Mug 2 revised

Raven Mug by Mariko Paterson

 

“They’ll think she’s crazy,” Daisy whispered. “Pretend we’re doing it for fun.”

So they joined in, caw-cawing themselves, pointing at Mother and each other and laughing. Rose felt miserable, she knew she shouldn’t be making fun of her mother. She wished she was safe at home, away from the stares.

At that moment, Mother’s friend Dora Miller stepped out of Follett’s shop. Without a second’s hesitation, she put her arm around Mother. “Hello, Lexie,” she said calmly. “It’s Dora, m’dear, can I walk along with you?” Mother relaxed and Dora led her home, got her a cup of tea and sat with her for an hour before she got up to leave. “I think she’s settled now,” Dora whispered, running her hand over Rose’s hair. “Don’t worry, Pet, I’m always close by if you need me.”

That night, as she lay in bed fretting about her mother, Rose said a little prayer of thanks for Dora Miller. Thank you God for Miz Miller helping us, and that she lives close by. I hope you’ll make Mother better, and make Dad stop drinking. Amen. It had been a while since she’d said her prayers, but at that moment she thought it was proper.

*

Sometimes, Mother was a handful even for Dora Miller. The girls had just gathered around the rag mat in the Millers’ kitchen to play marbles when Mother barged in the door and sat down. “Marbles,” she said, excitedly. Rose and Daisy exchanged looks. They’d left her napping in the bedroom, thought it was safe to leave for a little while.

Four questioning faces turned to Miz Miller. “It’s alright, let her play. I’ll watch her.” Blanche and Lucy, the Millers’ daughters, rolled their eyes at their mother. Rose sighed. Wasn’t there one place where she could get away? Even as the thought occurred, she felt her cheeks burn with guilt.

“Huh!” grumped Blanche, disgruntled at her mother’s ruling. She was chewing on a wad of frankum, cracking and smacking and tonguing it around her mouth. She picked up the five marbles and tossed them into the air, pushing the gum out between her teeth as she did so.

Mother’s hand darted out, grabbed the gum and stuffed it into her own mouth. There was a sharp intake of breath from around the circle. Blanche looked stunned. “Give that back!” she squealed, sticking her finger into Mother’s mouth to hook the gum. Mother bit down hard. Blanche screamed. Lucy ran upstairs crying. Mother howled with laughter.

“Come on, let’s go,” Daisy muttered. “I’m getting sick of this.” As they started down the path, Mother struck up a chorus of Abide with Me.