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Guest Blog #1 – Vivian Swift

Hello everybody, this is world famous author Vivian Swift filling in for Betsy today. I know, I know — I look familiar: Haven’t we met? I get that all the time. ALL THE TIME. Just last week, at Betsy’s book event at She Writes in Manhattan, I introduced myself to three or four complete strangers and two of them looked at me funny and asked, “Haven’t we met before?” I hate that. Like I said, I get asked that all the time; I just have one of those all-American cover girl faces. And an identical twin sister, but that never figures into the scenario except for that one time in that airport bar in Rome.

When somebody asks, “Haven’t we met?” what they are really saying is “You’re too ordinary for me to remember but I, on the other hand, am unforgettable, so now you have to do all the work and figure out why I think I know you. And make it snappy.”

It’s not that I’m easily offended. (Which I am, but that never figures into the scenario, unless we really have met before, and then I will get all Real Housewives of Atlanta on your ass.)

The reason this question bugs me is because even though I was cautioned by Betsy in the “Publication” chapter of The Forest For The Trees about what getting published will and will not do for your self-esteem, I still think that getting a book published is utterly transforming. Getting published gives you a sheen, a glow, an aura of specialness not unlike a halo — and it annoys me when people don’t see that. For chrissake, I am a published author. I’M IMPORTANT.

But lately I’ve been thinking. Oh sure, once you get published you do rise high above your formerly drab self, it’s true. But then you discover that you’ve been promoted into a whole new world of anonymity — after all, tens of thousands of books are published every year. I’ve read that the number is anywhere from 50 to 80 thousand books in America alone. With all those books that readers have to choose from, then, to those inundated readers you look just like every other author out there. Even if you’re in the ten percent of authors who are really, really cute, that’s still a lot of authors in the beauty pageant.

My job as an author (which is quite different from my job as a writer) is to stand out from the crowd. I remember when Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit came out; she got a lot of press for having written a good book, of course — but she got just as much attention about her having written it while suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. All over the land, talk show hosts and glossy magazine editors got the hots for her because –hallelujah! – they could interview an author who had a completely different story to tell about being a [boring, stay-at-home, intellectual, whiny word-processing] writer! Steig Larson: he went one better than disease — he got dead. Stephanie Myers: Mormon. J. K. Rowling: former welfare mom.

The only thing keeping me off the New York Times best seller list is that I forgot to tell my publisher (when they asked me for my bio) the one, single-most, publicity-sexy thing about me that will make TV, radio, and print editors take notice. And, by extension, make readers by the millions remember me. None of this “Have we met?” shit ever again.

But I’m working on my second book for publication, and this time I’ll be sure to mention that I am Angelina Jolie’s prettier half sister (tres relevant: my book is about France).

What is the sexiest thing about you, as a writer? Whether it’s true or not?

54 Responses

  1. I don’t think my being Black is gonna cut it anymore. Thank you very much, Barack Obama. “An author?” they’ll say. “Why aren’t you President.” Sigh.

    My life.

  2. Cannot think of anything sexy about myself as writer. Hm. Am hard pressed to feel sexy, writing aside. Writing = up late, pajama clad, pulling out hair, frustrated to the point of tears, no makeup, staring at the screen, drooling, crying, speaking to myself, speaking to the room, speaking to the screen, crying, swearing, crying. Nothing about this feels sexy. I get a little ‘new critically’ annoyed when we focus so much on writers (vs. writing) actually, though writers are Oh So Fascinating. If fatalism is in any way romantically attractive in a sad mystified sense approaching sexy (I don’t know …) the sexiest (I can’t even type that without feeling stupid) thing about me as a writer is my tendency to nearly off myself every few years. But that is not sexy. So never mind. And hell, it’s not related to my writing. I give up on this one. 😉

  3. Hilarious as all the sexy attributes mentioned are dark and loss tinged flirting with death and disaster—the essence of sexy. Way far from happy land so

    being the former foster kid I am I figure I’m in.

  4. I hate people. I’m honest, and if you look over my shoulder as you’ve been accustomed, you’ll see my cage is empty. I’m willing to at least check out chicks that Lerner promotes. I’m smart enough to never make promises. And, I hate people.

  5. The only person to whom it should matter to me (my wife), tells me the sexiest thing about me as a writer is I’m focused and disciplined and sometimes put words together in a kick-ass way and get them published.

    That’s an interesting firearm in that photograph.

  6. I can write in sapphics.

  7. I’m pretty sure chicks dig my receding hairline.

    • please meet them without a hat. It is very disconcerting when a woman …never mind. that’s like, really mean.

      • Full disclosure. I understand. No problem here, as my writerly head is too large for a chapeau, mademoiselle. (I’m told a French word discretely dropped here and there is also irresistible.)

      • that happened to me once in college. College! You’re not even looking out for it then!

  8. I’m the definition of literary sex appeal: a mIddle-class Jewish man whose idea of ‘exotic’ is buying the medium-hot salsa instead of the mild, a middle-aged chronic masturbator with mother issues and a complete lack of formative events.

    Also, my tits.

  9. I get asked that A LOT! I just look at them expressionlessly and say ‘Yes, that’s because I am very famous.’ The almost always stop for a second, thinking I might be right. Then they crack up and say ‘oh, right. Ok.’

    The sexiest thing about me as a unpublished author is my heartstring pulling story of how I got to be the napkin dad in the first place. It’ll make you tear up. You can read that story at my website.

    The other sexiest thing about me is having been blown up and burned over 70% of my body as a teenager. But I haven’t figured out how to exploit that into a movie deal yet. (I haven’t figured out how to exploit the Napkin Dad story into that either, but I am working on it!)

  10. Oh, Portnoy, where art thou?

  11. the sexiest thing about me is for sure my status as a 37 year old wife and mother of two who happens to be stuck in suburbialand, indiana—right? i mean, c’mon! you can’t get much sexier than that. plus i’ll add a quick foot note about my heroin addiction to seal some NPR interviews. (“i would drop the kids off at daycare and shoot up in the back of my 97 Toyota Avalon while listening to Coldplay in Target’s parking lot. it was the only way i could make it through another day. but then i started reading this agent’s blog…”)

  12. I enjoyed your post.
    Let’s see, I’m old and bald and smell like garlic and meatballs. I’m tall, have broad shoulders, a gentle smile and kids like me. I’ve been told I look wise and content, but that was probably after I farted. That has nothing to do with my writing, though. Probably the sexiest thing about my writing is I take chances and push on ahead, for better or worse.

  13. “You gotta have a gimmick / If you wanna get ahead,” as someone sings in the musical _Gypsy_. I haven’t decided on my gimmick yet. I’ve been told that I resemble the actor Stephen Rea (which is sometimes the answer to the “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” question, not quite the one Vivian addressed). But I don’t see how I can bank on that. I’m afraid that the sexiest thing about me is only that I can be gentle and a good listener. Which may make my answer sound like a personals ad.

  14. i’ve been told i write sexy sex scenes. let’s be clear, i avoid sex scenes until the last possible moment because i was raised presbyterian, and the thought of writing about sex makes me feel guilty. it’s my burden.

  15. Does that AK47 make me look fat? I TOLD Betsy that I didn’t want to go sleeveless.

    I just read that JayZ has to stage a million dollar scavanger hunt around NYC to get readers interested in his new book (a memoir), so I’m grateful that I only have to name drop.

  16. Yes, this is a question I’ve pondered many times. It does seem that there is supposed to be a kind of hook upon which the “author” is hung. Here are some possibilities for me:

    – Former Trailer Park Kid

    – Psychiatrist (This one carries remarkably little clout. Therefore, the existence of Sally Satel and the other conservative twit that I see on TV are a mystery to me… What is that douchebag’s name?… Oh yes, Charles Krauthammer)

    – Adoptive white father of two African American children, with Arabic names!!!

    – Caregiver of Mentally Retarded Brother

    Etc
    Etc

  17. I’m getting a voyeuristic kick out of this post, although I probably shouldn’t say that around trickybastard, now that I know he might have a white coat with my name on it.

  18. The sexiest thing about me as an author is that I’ve broken bread with Angelina Jolie doppelganger Vivian Swift.
    xo

  19. Fun post, Vivian. Betsy chose well to kick off the week with you. I love this question.

    When I was young and hot, not only did I look familiar to others, but there were many who told me that I was practically an exact replica of their best friend’s cousin/brother’s girlfriend’s sister/hairdresser’s granddaughter. I would offer cash money to have these purported twins brought before me, but nobody ever took me up on it. Now that my face is in the cruel clutches of time and gravity, I hardly get looked at, what to speak of with a sense of familiarity.

    Sexy Author-Me: I’m a Catholic schoolgirl-turned-alcoholic and drug abusing-stripper-turned-Hare Krishna priest in a celibate marriage. Shockingly, the words don’t just pour out of me.

    Oh, and my mother was a alcoholic prostitute, who raised me in a motel on Miami Beach and would occasionally seriously threaten to kill me. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m the reincarnation of my own maternal grandmother (for the Shirley Maclaine crowd who cares about these things). You can read all about it. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s my problem: my life seems so mythic already, and I’ve told myself (and others) the narrative so many times, that I’m not compelled to “rewrite” it for the page.

  20. The sexiest thing about me as a writer is that I kept at it after getting rejected all over town the first time. I think persistence is sexy.

    Great post Vivian. I always knew you were hot.

  21. Oh great. Now I’m going to sit here all day trying to equate some part of me with sexy, when in fact I should be working on how a glance across a church aisle leads to, well, that part I’m not sure of yet. Great question, Vivian. Reading the responses was very voyeuristic

  22. I just asked my husband this question. His response: Probably that you’re quiet and in thought and not yakking away as usual. The old fart, what does he know?

  23. Uncle.

    There is nothing remotely sexy or interesting about me. I’m a high school dropout, mediocre in every way. On the other hand, my imagination rivals that of the chick in Catfish, so what I think what I’ll do is play Where’s Waldo with my pseudonyms and bury my real identity on a ranch in Montana.

    • Can’t wait to see what new incarnation you come up with for yourself.

      • I should steal yours. How did such a beautiful creature emerge from a motel on Miami Beach? Makes me want to move my children there and start them off right.

      • Too many supermodels, too many pop stars on Miami Beach, too much money. No more crackers, no more Holocaust survivors, no more Haitian boat people washing up dead on the beach. No more cheap rent in cheap motels. And my mother, my father, too, are no more, which is what really made it all a story. Thank you for your sweet comment.

  24. Vivian your REAL name is sexy.

  25. Great post!

  26. I was in a menage a trois with A.J. Liebling once.

    It was me and A.J. Liebling.

  27. Testing something …

  28. The sexy thing about me as a columnist is my name Wendy Swift McGee.

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  30. […] her 50s – for that reason alone she’s an inspiration. Not to mention the fact that she guest-blogs for Betsy Lerner.  Hell, she’s represented by Betsy Lerner – and the story of that little coup is […]

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