Posted on | April 28, 2014 | Comments Off
Last week I featured author Una LaMarche as part of the #MyWritingProcess blog tour. Now it’s my turn. But be forewarned: my process is not a series of creative steps I follow to finish a project. Rather, my process involves karate-chopping excuses not to write on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
Here are five of the most common excuses not to write and how I tackle them. Hopefully these tips will help some of you kick their asses, too.
- “I’m not inspired.” Here’s a secret: no one feels inspired all the time. Writing is a job that needs to be worked at steadily until it’s done. Would a carpenter say, “You know, I don’t think I’m gonna finish installing these cabinets today because I’m not feeling inspired”? Bullshit. Writing is your craft. And if you ever want it to be anything more than a hobby, you have to put in your hours and keep punching in until the work is done. And, yes, I just compared it to cabinet making. It’s probably easier than cabinet making, so stop whining and write.
- “I have young kids.” Get up before your kids do and write for half an hour while the house is still quiet. Need to cart them around to activities? Bring your laptop or a pad of paper with you everywhere. Bang out a hundred words in your car while you’re waiting for junior to finish soccer practice or piano lessons. Another excuse related to this one is, “I’m taking care of an elderly family member.” A similar logic applies. Taking grandma to the doctor? Type while you’re in the waiting room.
- “I have a demanding day job.” There are a few different approaches I suggest for tackling this one, none of which involve quitting the day job altogether. I do not advise quitting a day job to write unless you have a very solid plan in mind about how you will support yourself. A less extreme measure would be to look for a different day job–one that doesn’t suck the life out of you physically and mentally. But even this approach seems drastic to me. I’m risk averse and I like paychecks. A baby step is to write over your lunch hour a few times a week. You’d be surprised how quickly your word count can climb if you bring your laptop to Panera or Au Bon Pain or wherever it is you like to eat.
- “I wrote something else once and it got rejected by an agent/editor/publisher.” Congratulations! You are now officially a writer. But if you allow one–or sixty–rejections to wound your pride and confidence so much that you’re ready to throw in the towel, then you’ll probably never be a published writer. Putting yourself out there means being rejected sometimes or getting a bad review now and then. Let the rejections fuel you to do better and prove those people who rejected you wrong.
- “Mad Men is on.” Okay, you can watch Mad Men. But only because it’s the last season.
Posted on | April 26, 2014 | 1 Comment
Today my publisher is running an Amazon Gold Box promotion of Book Club Favorites, each for $1.99 ($3.99 outside the US and Canada). Vintage is one of them! So if you have a Kindle, today’s a great day to grab a copy for just $1.99. The promotion only runs until midnight today (Saturday, April 26).
Posted on | April 21, 2014 | Comments Off
I’ve been asked to participate in the #MyWritingProcess Blog Tour, where writers from across genres and continents talk about how they write. Today I’m featuring the hilarious Una LaMarche, whose Sassy Curmudgeon blog was named one of Babble’s 100 best humor blogs of 2013. She also writes for the New York Observer. Last year, I read Una’s debut YA novel, Five Summers, and had a blast re-living my teenage summer camp days through the four main characters. Una has a new novel, Like No Other, coming out in July. It’s about forbidden young love–always a great premise–between a Brooklyn girl with a strict Hasidic upbringing and an awkward bookish boy. Today I’m posting Una’s thoughts on her writing process, in her own words. Then next week, I’ll be posting about my own process and tagging two more writers to continue the blog hop. I’ll let Una take it from here.
#MyWritingProcess by Una LaMarche
The following sentence would make the teenage Una experience a debilitating euphoria not felt since Allison Parker kissed Billy Campbell at the end of episode 29 of season one of Melrose Place: I’m in various stages of writing three different books. My second young adult novel, Like No Other (which you can pre-order here!), comes out July 24 from Razorbill (Penguin’s YA imprint), and right now I’m doing early publicity, like speaking at schools and libraries, as well as awaiting the final manuscript to approve before it goes to print. My book of comic essays, Unabrow, is with a copy editor at Plume (coincidentally, another Penguin imprint) as I type this, and I’ll be getting a galley to look at in the next month. It won’t come out until late March 2015, but publishing houses generally start working on promotion and publicity at least 6-8 months ahead of time… which explains why so often, I hear friends and family members say, “Wait, that didn’t come out yet? You’ve been posting about it for what feels like my entire adult life.” (I choose to hear this as a compliment rather than a complaint.) Finally, I’m very excited about a third YA novel, also with Razorbill, that I’ll be starting to write in May, for publication in the fall of 2015, but since I haven’t signed the contract yet I can’t share more details right now.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
It’s my firm belief that the primary (and sometimes the only) thing that distinguishes one creative work from the next is the author’s voice and point of view. Back in college, I remember my film professor telling our class that there are really only about 10 different plots in movies when you break them down to their bones, and that the important thing isn’t about coming up with an idea that no one else has ever had before (a feat which, in today’s over-saturated market, is close to impossible), but to tell the story in a way that no one else could. And that was a HUGE relief to me, because we all have an authentic, original voice and point of view, which means that we are all capable of writing–or painting, or photographing, or dancing, or whatever–in a way that hasn’t been done. That said, I’d like to think that what distinguishes my young adult writing is that I balance out the angst and drama (which, let’s face it, are the two most important ingredients in most stories set amidst the emotional minefield of post-adolescence) with wit and humor. I think that we don’t give teenagers credit for being able to appreciate the humor inherent in the fumbling path to adulthood. As far as my humor writing goes, again, I hope what distinguishes me is simply my voice and my way of interpreting and reflecting on life experiences in a way that other people can relate to and laugh at. I haven’t had a particularly exceptional life on paper. I haven’t had crazy experiences or terrible tragedies. I am awed and humbled by people who do have extraordinary circumstances and incredible stories to tell, but I’m happy to just write about universal stuff like unrequited crushes, althletic humiliations, and wondering if the people behind you in line at the drug store are judging you for buying wart removal pads and a double-feature DVD of My Girl and My Girl 2 that was on sale for $4.99.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
I write humor because it’s the lens through which I can best understand and process my own life. This is not to say that I don’t take things seriously, or that all I do in real life is crack jokes. In fact, I yell a lot at inanimate objects and cry probably more than is normal. No, what I mean is that seeing the humor in awkward or painful moments helps me to cope with them. To be honest, I never imagined I would write fiction, but now that I’m doing it I want to keep doing it for as long as people will let me. I love writing YA, even though it sometimes makes me feel old. It lets me exercise a different creative muscle, get my head out of my own ass (writing exclusively about your own life can make you into an insufferable narcissist if you’re not careful), and it gives me the chance to reach someone who, like me, might have more books/pimples than friends. I know I’ll never be Judy Blume, but if I can make a kid laugh during a shitty week, or make someone connect to a character in one of my books in a way that makes them feel normal and understood, or see a window to a future in which high school won’t define them anymore, that’s good enough for me.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
It’s chaos, I won’t lie. I wrote my first book (Five Summers–out in paperback soon!) when my son was 6 months old, and basically I would write during his naps and after he went to sleep. I was stressed and exhausted all the time, and I freaked out on a daily basis. By the time I wrote my second novel I had a slightly better grip on how to manage my time, but as a full time stay-at-home, work-when-I-can-hide-in-the-bathroom-during-Blue’s-Clues parent, I still make it up as I go. Generally, I will create an outline or loose structure for a book first, either a series of paragraph-long chapter summaries or, in the case of Unabrow, a grid I taped to the wall and covered with Post-Its like a cray-cray Carrie Mathison.
Then I’ll make a schedule for a first draft over the course of about 12-16 weeks, and then I crack open some wine and place myself at my editors’ mercy. I now have babysitters in the mornings for three to four hours, so I do the bulk of my writing then. I still work during naps and at night, but I’ve discovered that my creative brain isn’t very functional post-8 pm, so whenever I can I take nights off. I do work on weekends whenever my husband takes our son on an outing, but I don’t write at the same time every day and–get ready to have a heart attack–I don’t even write every day. Almost all writers will tell you that you HAVE to write, EVERY DAY, to WORK ON YOUR CRAFT, or else you are NOT A REAL WRITER. But riddle me this, Jonathan Safran-Foer: does a brain surgeon operate on brains every day? Does a rocket scientist science rockets every day? Does a plumber plumb every day? And is he not still a plumber, nay, the best plumber of his generation? OK, fine maybe not the best, but he’s still a plumber. Which is my point.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, whether you are a writer, an aspiring writer, not a writer at all, or (fingers crossed) Inigo Montoya clicking a Google alert on his own name.
Posted on | April 4, 2014 | 2 Comments
Last Saturday was the book launch party for my debut novel, VINTAGE, held at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. We had a great turnout, with most guests arriving dressed in vintage attire. Madison bookseller A Room of One’s Own sold over 100 copies of VINTAGE at the event. Thank you to all who attended! Click on any image to see a larger version.
Posted on | March 23, 2014 | 4 Comments
The launch day for VINTAGE is almost here! On Tuesday, March 25, it will hit bookstore shelves and e-reader screens everywhere. ***Pops champagne and sprays it all over everyone***
To celebrate the launch of VINTAGE, I’m running a Glamorous Vintage Giveaway this week for anyone who purchases the book. If you pre-ordered it months ago, it still counts, assuming you still have your receipt or other proof of purchase.
The prize is a package including the following goodies, as pictured blow:
- A vintage Louis Vuitton “Looping” handbag. This is a mint condition item from my personal collection, shown in the picture at right. Classic brown leather with iconic monogram. Suede interior. Includes the original felt bag with “LV” label for storage.
- $50 Etsy gift certificate. This can be spent anywhere on Etsy, not just at my store. Use it to buy yourself something unique and fabulous!
To enter the Glamorous Vintage Givewaway, email a copy of your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you buy more than one copy of the book, you’ll get more than one entry! A winner will be chosen at random at 5:00 PM CST on Sunday, March 30.
Planning to buy the book at the launch party in Madison on March 29? No problem. Just save a copy of your receipt and email it to the address above. Good luck!
Posted on | February 4, 2014 | 1 Comment
As someone in the business of books, I often get asked for reading recommendations. I always direct people to Goodreads, where I keep track of everything I read and want to read in the future. I was thrilled, then, to hear that my publisher, William Morrow/HarperCollins, is giving away 30 free copies of my debut novel, VINTAGE, coming out March 25! The giveaway is going on until midnight on the morning of Thursday, February 6. Click HERE or on the picture at left to enter.
Posted on | November 11, 2013 | 6 Comments
One of the true delights of being a parent to a young child is reading picture books. It’s fun to read favorites from my own childhood like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Caps for Sale, and pretty much anything by Dr. Seuss. But it’s even more fun to discover new authors and illustrators.
Yesterday I was reading a picture book to my small son. The book was the adorable and beautifully-illustrated RAIN! by Linda Ashman, which came out earlier this year. I love the book because it’s all about perspective. A grumpy old man sees that it’s raining one morning and complains that he has to put on his “blasted overcoat” and trudge out into the gray day. I can identify with his curmudgeonly character. I feel the same way on lot of mornings lately, as winter settles in over Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the books follows a young child in the same city neighborhood. The child jumps up and down with glee when he learns it is raining. For the child, the “bad” weather is an opportunity to don his frog hat and galoshes and go puddle jumping. Same day, same neighborhood, same weather, different experiences. It’s all about perspective.
I’ve read this book many times to my son, but yesterday, I gained yet another level of insight.
There is an illustration that depicts a cafe scene, where the old man is reading his newspaper and the little boy is drinking hot cocoa with his mom. At a nearby table, a woman types at a laptop with a serious expression. My 2-year-old son pointed to the woman and said, “That’s Mama.”
I cracked up.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been in deadline mode, finishing my second book while gearing up to promote my first, VINTAGE, which comes out in March. Add a day job and a house renovation to that and you can see how there hasn’t been much room lately for goofing around.
So, yes, my son’s analogy was accurate. But just to prove him–or more likely myself–wrong, we headed to the park after finishing the story. We basked in what will probably be one of the last sunny, mittenless autumn days. We dropped spinning maple helicopters from the top of the jungle gym. We walked around the block, identifying the makes, models, and colors of cars (yes, my toddler is a bit auto-obsessed).
I knew that later, I’d have to go back to my laptop. But a kids’ book reminded me to make time for play, too.
Image credit: Illustrations are from RAIN! by Linda Ashman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
Posted on | October 9, 2013 | Comments Off
Today I’m over at The Debutante Ball, where I blog every Wednesday, talking about the unlikely link between dragons, seasonal affective disorder, and writing goals. Here’s a sneak preview:
Winter is coming. No, this is not a post about Game of Thrones, though I do love me some dragons and wildlings. We’ll talk about the HBO medieval fantasy series some other time.
Really, though. Winter is coming. Even though we’ve had some lovely fall days lately, I can feel the light waning, the change creeping in. The sun is getting further away, its warmth weaker.
Sorry to be a downer, but this week’s topic is “seasons” of writing and productivity. This is a tough topic for me because, like so many people in northern climates, I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder or, as it is aptly abbreviated, S.A.D.
Photo credit: HBO
Posted on | September 30, 2013 | 4 Comments
Kickass women, from any period in history, never cease to inspire. Julia Child was one of those women, which is why multi-published author Karen Karbo chose to write about her for the latest book in the Kickass Women series, Julia Child Rules. Other subjects in Karbo’s series—which are one part biography, one part humor essay, with a dash of motivational speaking tossed in—include Katherine Hepburn, Georgia O’Keefe, and Coco Chanel. Hmmm. Art, fashion, film, and food? Why have we never had lunch, Ms. Karbo? Oh, because you live in Portland.
Each chapter of Karbo’s book, Julia Child Rules, lays out a truism that Julia preached and practiced in her life. I just finished reading Chapter 4, “Obey Your Whims.” I’m a fairly risk-averse person (I did go to law school, after all). In whim-following, as well as in the kitchen, I have a lot to learn from Julia.
How refreshing, then, to read about someone who was a big believer in not getting stuck in any certain path. When, during World War II, the Women Army Corps (WACs) rejected Julia for being too tall (she was six-foot-three), she didn’t give up on her goal of serving the war effort. She took the civil service exam and traveled to Washington, D.C., where she got a job with the OSS–the precursor to the CIA. The job took her to India, where she met Paul Child, the man she’d eventually marry. Paul, a man of refined tastes, was the reason she learned to cook. When presented with something unfamiliar or a new challenge, Julia’s attitude was “what the hell” and she’d roll up her sleeves and see what it was all about.
I, for one, know I could exercise a little less caution at times and a little more what-the-hell. How about you? I’ll leave you with this tidbit from the book, which comes out tomorrow:
“The best time to heed a whim is when we find ourselves stuck in life, when putting one foot in front of the other is only taking us further away from where we want to go, even though we don’t know where that is.”
–Julia Child Rules by Karen Karbo
Posted on | September 25, 2013 | Comments Off
It takes more than one person to write a novel, and any author who doesn’t admit that is either lying or an egomaniac. In my case, it took a whole lot of people for VINTAGE to go from a glimmer of an idea to a manuscript to a real-life book that hits bookstores in March. Here are five of them, or five categories of people, since I couldn’t actually narrow it down to just five individuals.
First, there was my very patient husband, who didn’t complain, or only minimally so, when I took off for a critique group meeting or yet another late-evening editing session. He also gets credit for not thinking I was completely insane for wanting to do, and thinking I could do, this author thing in the first place, when I have a perfectly good law degree. My husband has encouraged me in an endeavor that requires me to hang out alone for long periods of time, leaving him with the toddler, the dog, and the dishes. Did I mention I love this man?
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