Category Archives: Writing

Writers on Stage: 12 Tips for Readings & Events

The first time I read in public, (a Grub Street open mike event at the now-defunct Johnny D’s in Somerville, Massachusetts) I flopped. I failed. I sucked.

Years later (no more experienced) with my debut book launch looming, I was terrified. My mouth became dust each time I practiced, but a glass of water in hand, I went to work.

First, pre-publication months were spent attending bookstore events with a notebook (and money to buy the book of any author to whom I listened) in hand.

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How Long Does it Take to Get Published?

Recently, a thread in an online writer’s community popped up, beginning with someone (who hadn’t begun querying) asking why folks sent query letters to so many agents.

Did they have that many “dream agents?

Why not send to just one or two top choices?

And, really, how long does it take?

Answers flew in—achingly honest and reminiscent of everyone’s distant and not-at-all-distant (often painful) publishing journeys.  I thought back to how long it took me.

The answer? You got some time?

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What To Do Before Your Book Launch: A Guidebook

What to expect when you’re expecting your book? What’s going to happen first, and second, and third?  Pre-launch of my debut novel,  the breadth of information I had to learn overwhelmed me—were there an eight-day week into which I could tap.

During the 2-24 months between signing a book contract and receiving those freshly pressed books, there is much to do and little guidance available.  In 2009, For the secrets of debuting, I turned to the underground, where surreptitious bands of debut novelists come together in the shadows to share the secrets they’ve learned from already published brethren.

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How Readers Discover Books

This is going to be one long post! I tried to organize the answers to my survey, “How Do You Discover Books” in a way that will be most useful, but, wow! I was overwhelmed, not by the number of people who responded to the survey—that was a respectable 213—but by organizing and reading the over 110 comments. The devil really is in these details.

First: This was an unscientific venture. I sent it to a mailing list of book clubs, writers and friends. I wrote a post with a link to the survey (that was open to the world) and asked friends to share that post, which I and others put on FB and Twitter—so most certainly this swayed the answers. But those who answered were, like me, readers to the core.

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The Amazing Jewish Book Fair Ride

 Don’t forget; Jewish people read an enormous amount,” my lovely (and Jewish) literary agent said before my book launch. “We really love books.”

I nodded. Yes, I knew that—at least I knew it inasmuch as I was Jewish and I read—as did my mother, my sister, and my daughters, but could I raise that sample to the status of landslide? Discerning what was true in my culture was fraught with difficulty. I grew up with a slight case of anomie, surrounded by a cultural belief that all-things-Jewish=equals families-pushing-one-towards-great-achievement, while, among other family oddities, my grandmother taught me to shoplift.

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Soothing Words For Bad Reviews



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It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

For every moment of awe a writer has at seeing her book on a shelf, at being told by readers they found comfort they found in your words, for each time you visit a warm and loving book club, there come the time when you read the word “blech” in a reader’s review. It’s part of the business and there’s no answer except chocolate and wine. It hurts. Writers from NYT bestsellers to just-on-the-shelves authors must find ways to soothe themselves through the pain.

I come bearing brownies and a shot of tequila. The comfort needed for times when nothing but schadenfreude will do. I would offer mead to Shakespeare, had he lived in the time of Amazon and read this review of Romeo and Juliet:

As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about “Romeo and Juliet” is that it spawned the plot for “West Side Story,” which, although laden with cheese, doeshighlight some of the more noble facets of the human character (along the less noble) and features some wonderful music. “Romeo and Juliet” will, however, simply annoy anyone with half a brain.”

A newly published author-friend privately spilled her horror (to a group of not-surprised writers) when, after a spate of reader-love, she found this on a popular book site: “To those who loved this book, may we never meet on subway, train, or plane.”

Shock usually follows the first angry reader review. I don’t think they’re as hurtful as critical professional reviews, but they go where NYT reviewers would never tread.

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How Jobs Taught Me What To Write

wordificator (2) Our writer’s code, written into our secret writer club rules, remind us that day jobs stand between us and a published novel. I understand. For years I thought if only and when and someday. And yes, working one, two, three jobs at a time took a big bite out of what would certainly have been my fast track to a Pulitzer. But slogging through, learning at, loving, and hating a number of jobs, that’s what formed and hold up my novels.

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Likeability Laced With Betty Crocker Syndrome (In Real Life & Fiction)

 

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A few years ago, when speaking with a reporter about my then-just-released novel, Accidents of Marriage, she mentioned how surprised she was by her negative reactions to the main character—how the character ‘provoked’ her husband. The reporter sympathized with the husband’s anger. The next day, participating on a book panel, the moderator spoke of the husband in the book as a virtual out-of-control monster and his wife Maddy as a frightened woman battling emotional abuse.

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Writing & Reading Those Special’ Romantic Scenes: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

 

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I tried to think of a, um, sexier title for this post, but they all sounded, um, icky, and the last thing I want when I’m writing about sex is an ick factor. Writing about icky sex? Terrific. Writing icky about sex? Terrible.

When my first novel released in 2010, Pia Lindstrom, an interviewer from Sirius Radio, shocked me out of my I-can-handle-any-question mood when she asked something to the effect of:

So, I was surprised by how much sex is in your book. You did it so well. People say it’s hard to write about sex. How did you do it?

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Sexism, Name-Calling & Deniers in Writing: Which Side Are You On, Gentlemen?

Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.—Khaled Hosseini

A few questions:

Why do some folks get in such an uproar when women simply ask for a fair shake, equal footing?

Why does anyone think women writers are exempt from institutional sexism? The Mad Men era was not long ago. The 19thamendment to the constitution, giving women the right to vote, was only ratified in 1920. Help Wanted ads were segregated by gender into the seventies.

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