How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading too Much, by Samantha Ellis – A Review

I haven’t yet read this book, but it sounds right up my alley. Maybe it will appeal to you too.

Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

How To Be A Heronie, by Smantha Ellis 2015 x 200From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

Those who don’t enjoy reading may assume it’s a solitary activity, and they’d be partly correct because page turning (physical or virtual) is usually done alone. But we literature lovers crave community as much as any social animal. It’s why we join book clubs and haunt web sites like Goodreads, BookLikes, and of course Austenprose. We love to connect with other readers to share passions, recount experiences, and exchange opinions about books. And reading about reading is an irresistible meta-pleasure that’s almost as fun as getting lost in a novel. For all these reasons Samantha Ellis’s, How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading too Much piqued my interest.

Her book opens on the Yorkshire Moors with Ellis and her best friend arguing about which Brontë heroine they’d rather be, Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. Ellis made what to her was…

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What’s Next?

The Sound of Her Own Voice was completed.  It had an arc of time through which characters grew and developed into their inevitable selves.

During the entire process of researching and writing I fell upon new ideas for novels, questions about what it means to be an American, a Jewish American, Jewish American woman; I thought about what assimilation takes and gives to a people, how greed can change a person, what it means to undertake nation building, and what makes one person strong and drives another to madness.  I had discovered a fountain.  It seemed that where to place the final period was almost arbitrary.  So much was left for another time, another book, or the cutting room floor.

Now, I faced the hard part: who would publish my masterpiece?  I knew who my audience was, but how was I to convince an agent or publisher that this book would interest and reach them?  It seemed so simple to me at the time.  But, I was not the only unknown writer in the world trying to catch the attention of someone on the inside of the publishing business.  I needed to learn tricks and techniques about advertising that had nothing to do with the years of learning how to create fiction.  Between being pissed off and disappointed at rejection after rejection I worked on how to write a catchy elevator pitch and a jazzy synopsis.  I’m sure my basic resistance to it didn’t help move anything along easily or quickly, or for that matter effectively.

While friends, and friends of friends helped rewrite my first attempts at pithy and catchy lines describing 350 pages, I scoured the my bookshelves for indexes and bibliographies that suggested agents and/or publishers interested in my themes.  And I collected form rejection letters.

I liked The Sound of Her Own Voice and I believed others would too.  What to do about that stumped me.   I began lurking in the the Women Writing the West chat room where I asked a few questions to the seasoned, knowledgeable women I found there, and decided to step into self-publishing.  That, too, was an education I hadn’t bargained on.

paths not taken

Lena’s story, a young woman who finds herself in the diggings of the gold rush towns, came to it’s natural conclusion.  And as all good westerns must end, she rode into the sunset.

What was next?  For me? for Lena?  Do I follow her to Sacramento or San Francisco? Do I back track to her father and sister who have packed up and are traveling West to join their errant relative?

This new story did intrigue me.  I now knew so much about the times and the places.  I could easily imagine their adventures across uncharted America.  The book “The World Rushed In” by J.S. Holliday is a nearly complete document of letters from one New York 49er to his wife at home.  This is the tale of excitement, hardship, successes, disappointments told by a gentle observant, good man.  Descriptions and characters bring the man’s experiences to life as fully as fiction can.  In this book I could feel the entire epic dimension of this adventure as in no other book I read.

I thought to use that book as a guide as Lena’s father and sister worked their way across the country.  Perhaps I will one day complete their journey through Kansas (“Pioneer Women”, ed. Stratton is a compendium of letters and diary entries that detail the extreme isolation and hardship of homesteading).  Or I will follow them to Arizona; to Josie Marcus’ Tombstone or like Harriet Rochlin’s novel “The First Lady of Dos Cachuates” what pioneer Jews found and did in the European settling of the Southwest.

The plan now was to find an agent and a publisher.  I wanted Lena’s story out in the world.  I wanted to add to the library that gives young women permission to follow the sound of their own voices.