Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm Unboxed! And Working Moms

I did a long Q/A with the lovely folks at Writer Unboxed, and it's live today. Check it out. They asked insightful, fab questions, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the site, not just for this Q/A, but as a contributor as well.

Also, if anyone in NYC is participating in the Revlon Run/Walk tomorrow (I am!...I hope I can drag myself out of bed early enough to see my girlcrush, Mandy Moore, perform), they're giving away 100 copies or so of TDLF at the finish run that baby superfast, and you can grab yourself a free copy!

And because I know that you come here for more than just Q/As with me (ha!), here's the question of the day:

Here's my deal, I'm a former lawyer, current stay-at-home-mom. I just started writing and got my first 2 clips last month in a downtown NY paper. The editor called me last week regarding a last minute assignment. As I'm just starting out, I was not going to turn him down and was quite pleased he thought of me to do the piece. The problem is, I have a regular sitter twice a week and obviously assignments/deadlines don't always coincide, of course, with when I have my sitter. I would love to devote tomorrow to writing but I am with my toddler all day on Mondays. Anyway, just wondering how stay-at-home-moms manage these issues. I can't really continue just writing late nights - I end up wiped for weeks on end!

Well, for me, I think it really comes down to time management. You mentioned that you do have a regular sitter, so that's wonderful. But when you say that the deadlines don't always coincide, I think it's up to you to make them do so. Here's what I mean by that: it sounds like this piece was a last-minute assignment, so let's put that aside and address that later. But part of the reason that I can juggle so many balls, I think, is that I'm incredibly organized. I sat down at my office today, knowing that I had A TON of things that I wanted to do OUTSIDE of work this afternoon, and immediately tackled my to-do list...which I'd written out for myself last night before I closed down. I recognize that between my dog, my kids, my need to get the gym, my errands, and today - a necessary mini-massage thanks to sleeping wrong and an incredible pain in my neck, that if I'm not efficient, it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

This is where I'm going with this: if you have a limited time to get your work done, you need to work really far ahead of yourself. It's really easy to put aside assignments that aren't due for a few weeks because, well, they aren't due for a few weeks. But as you said, who knows what else is going to pop up, and when you'll find the time to get to them. So, what I would recommend, is that as soon as you get an assignment, to start on it immediately. If you complete it early, all the better. Send it in early, and not only will you earn your editor's gratitude, you'll also feel a lot less stressed. Second of all, keep a list or take whatever organizational steps necessary to streamline your day. I've gotten a little lazy with my list-making as of late, and I've been far less productive. I mean, I can literally see the minutes ticking by when I should be doing something, and I'm not, simply because I don't have that list in front of me, and thus, I'm not as motivated.

And when it comes to last-minute assignments like the one you mentioned above, don't be afraid to ask for a day or so extension. You don't have to say that you hang with your daughter on Mondays: just say you already have a previous commitment, can you get it to him on Tuesday? I spend a couple of hours with my own daughter on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when she can't attend a pre-nursery class with my son, and when people ask if I can do a call or whatever at that time, I simply say that I already have a commitment. Period. Which is true. Just to my daughter, not to work. And if the deadline won't budge, ask your husband or whomever else is around to help you pick up the slack. Any juggling mom will tell you that it's not easy, but it is made easy by having a really, really good support team in place. It sounds like you already know that and are well on your way.

So working moms, any advice?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Q/A With Moi

Today's post is brought to you by the fabulous Sara Hantz, whose first book, THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN, will be published this fall. I remember reading about her deal on Publishers Marketplace - here's what it said: Sara Hantz's debut THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN, about a girl who joins a virginity club in her new town to try to make a new start, to Andrew Karre at Flux, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world) - and thinking that it sounded like a hilarious concept. So I, for one, am looking forward to it!

Anyhoo, Sara was kind enough to ask me to do a Q/A for her blog a while back, so head over there to check out my thoughts on the agent hunt, having faith in your work, and how to become a better writer.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Other Side of the Coin

Admin note: A kind friend just informed me that the copy of TDLF that she'd pre-ordered from Amazon had been bumped from her cart. I know that Amazon recently shifted the release date of the book (to the correct one), so maybe that's the cause? In any case, if you've pre-ordered (and to those of you who have - thank you!!), you might want to double-check your cart.

Question of the day: My question has to do with the other angle of freelancing--how does a person with a forthcoming nonfiction health-related book make contact with freelancers to be considered for book reviews, interviews, profiles, discussion of article ideas, etc.? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Good question, though I can only answer it from the perspective of a freelancer. But I'm hoping that there are some readers out there who have been in the position of promoting their own books who might chime in with ideas.

There are a couple of ways to go about this. 1) Hire a small PR firm who has reasonable rates or hope that your in-house publicist is proactive. The firm or publicist will take it upon themselves to craft a press release and blast it to all the necessary outlets, as well as come up with other snazzy angles to get your name and book in the press. 2) Write a press release yourself and do that same blast, though this might be harder for you, since you don't have the contacts. That said, I think it's Bacon's that has the email addys of just about every contact you'd ever need, and if you had the time and energy, you could put together a good list on your own. 3) Personally email all the freelance writers and editors you know to let them know about your book. As much as I just chatted about press releases, I tend not to read that many that are sent my way. A personal note or a referral from a contact/mutual friend grabs my attention much more.

So those are my thoughts, but I'm certain that there are a lot of other and better ways to go about it. So what say you, readers? What do you recommend for this book author?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Getting Started

What was the moment like for you the first time you sat down to type out your book of fiction? Did you write that first sentence and then the story took off? Was that first sentence the most difficult to write? (As it has been for me.) Or, by the time you sat down to type, had you already sculpted the protagonist and all her qualities in your mind so you were equipped to build the plot?

I'll be honest: I find that the first 25k words of a book are the toughest. I know that some people struggle with the second half...they lose momentum and run out of ideas, which is why so many people have half-written novels tucked away in the archives of their computers, but for me, starting out is the hardest. Because it just seems SO DAMN DAUNTING. That, like, from this blank page, a novel will emerge.

But, on to your question.

No, I didn’t (and don’t) just sit down and start writing. Both times, I had a pretty good idea of at least the first half of the book, as well as the characters who would be in it. I really like to come up with a loose plot – and I say loose because a lot of things change once I start diving in, ie, in TDLF, one of the main love interests wasn’t even an original love interest at all, and I’d planned to have a different character fill that role...but when I started writing, things just fell into place organically – and spend some mental time with my characters before I start writing. I think that if you don’t do that, you’re prone to writing rambling chapters without enough plot because you’re sort of feeling your way as you go. And that doesn’t lead to good writing. (See: my first draft of my first novel!)

So rather than force yourself to write, which, by the way, is still a good way to exercise your fiction muscle, I’d instead focus on your key character and what you want to do with her. What’s her story? What are the conflicts that she might be dealing with? Is she a go-getter? Ballsy? Complacent? Is she happy in her job/relationship/life? Etc. Spend a little time kicking that around, and then the writing will come easier, I think. In fact, after I get to know the characters in my head, the first line and the opening scene come to me pretty easily. I'm guessing the same will be true for you.

So readers - what's your process? Do you sit down and write or take some time to craft a background story before you begin?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Paying It Foward

I wanted to take today to give a shout-out to a fellow author, Jen Lancaster. Not only does Jen run the snarkalicious, Jennsylvania blog, and contribute to Snarkywood - a must stop for anyone who is interested in biting commentary on pop culture - but she's also the author of Bitter is the New Black, and Bright Lights, Big Ass, which is released tomorrow!

Now. Why did I title this post, "Paying It Forward?" Because, as you'll see when my book comes out next week (!!!), Jen kindly and graciously blurbed TDLF. And she did this not because she knew me or because we go way back or are tight buddies or anything like that, she did it because I sent her a blind email and asked her to read. Not only did she take the time to read, she then wrote me a kick-ass blurb.

It's really easy to feel alienated and discouraged in this industry - sitting alone in your office typing words onto a page that may or may not ever be read by the outside world - and generous people like Jen (and all of my blurbers) reinforce the notion that a lot of us enjoy giving each other a boost up.

So - go out there and buy Bright Lights! If you liked Bitter, you'll love this one. Same biting wit, same bruising commentary! Her chapter on finding a trainer made me laugh so hard that my husband kicked me out of the room.