Category Archives: Writing

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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Also posted in Book Clubs, Book Tour, Books | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

 

betty-crocker-cookies-1937

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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Also posted in Accidents of Marriage, My Opinionated Self | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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

 

1-romance-on-the-beach-pic

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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Also posted in The Comfort of Lies, The Murderer's Daughters | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Writer Wars, Hierarchy & Can We Get Over Ourselves?

I’ve been mid-book since my addiction began at age four and I pray to have a TBR stack until the moment I die. On that heap I want it all: pounding plots, the wow of discovery, the comfort of recognition, and astounding characters. If I’m lucky, some will have all of the above. Whichever book I’m holding, I don’t want to be judged or lauded for it and I don’t want to shelve my books by race, class, or gender.

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Also posted in My Opinionated Self | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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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Also posted in My Life | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Balancing Shrill, Skill and Shill

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“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln

Selling–the worst part of writing. Writing a book takes a certain set of skills: intense concentration, imagination, the ability to read the same 400 pages time after time, and the fortitude to take criticism (excuse me, ahem, critique) without weeping.  You must learn to shut out all noise at a given moment and you must love solitude.

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Also posted in My Opinionated Self | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Writers on Stage: 10 Tips for Readings in Public

man with feet in water

The first time I read in public (a Grub Street open mike event at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Mass.), I sucked.

Years later (no more experienced) with my debut book launch looming, I had to do better. Pre-publication months were spent attending bookstore events with a notebook (and money*) in hand.

Many of the ‘rules’ below I learned from either the awful readings I attended or the great ones. My first lessons in how-to-not-bore-people-to-death came from listening to and watching Boston (and Grub Street) authors Steve Almond (enormously funny, edgy, and self-deprecating) and Jenna Blum (extraordinarily entertaining, honest, and generous.) Learning by watching was invaluable.

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Also posted in Launching a Book | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Debut Books by Writers Over 40

(first published in 2011)

Originally, I tried to resist writing this—especially after my plea against categorizing authors.  Plus, so many of us hide our age in this world of never-get-old, unearthing this information, even in our Googlized world, was difficult.

But when , along with the plethora of lists of writers under 40, I was faced with the declaration that, as headlined in a Guardian UK article about writers, ‘Let’s Face It, After 40 You’re Past It.”

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Also posted in Cultural Politics, My Opinionated Self | Tagged , , , | 65 Comments

Seeing Themes & Obsessions In Novels

Close-up of a pencil drawing on a computer monitor

“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”–Frida Kahlo

Writers often don’t recognize their own embedded themes until after writing “the end”–and sometimes not even then. True revelations are often handed to us by reviewers, book clubs, and Goodreads. Only by looking back do we recognize our sore spots and consistent curiosity.

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Also posted in Accidents of Marriage | Tagged , | 1 Comment

My Homemade MFA

 

(originally published in 2011)

How did you get published? Do you have an MFA?” a reader asked last week. I struggled for the right answer—how to tell her that, no, I don’t have an MFA, but still, I credit being published on other people’s teaching.

A number of years ago (about ten to be inexact) I faced reality. If I were to be taken seriously by publishers and agents, I had to work with more intent. For a number of reasons (money, reluctance, working 50+ hours a week, and hyper-impatience with lectures) I didn’t return to school. Instead, I dove into self-study and set myself up as a virtual Miss Grundy.

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Posted in Writing | 2 Comments