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Words Can’t Bring Me Down

 

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You all know by now that all I truly believe in is hard work. That the moments of serendipity, or grace, or “inspiration” are borne of hard work. Steady work. Daily writing and hopefully for a few hours each time you sit down. That great line, image, simile, active verb doesn’t drop out of the sky. I don’t believe in luck when it comes to writing. That said, there are those rare and beautiful moments when a perfect phrase just seems to appear, when the perfect cliff hanger ends a chapter, when a canny transition gets you out of tight corner. And it’s those moments that make the whole fucking thing worth it.

Tell me about your transcendence.

I Started a Joke Which Started the Whole World Crying

How old were you when you started to write. I literally kept diaries when I was eight years old called The Hot Dog Diaries. Fairly self-explanatory. Then I pretended to be Anne Frank as many good Jewish girls do, scribbling in a crawl space under our stairs. Sadly, our ranch house didn’t have an attic. Then, and here is the big turning point, I asked a beloved 7th grade teacher if I could learn creative writing. She told me to go home and write a poem. I had meant calligraphy, but didn’t know the word for it. Too embarrassed, I went home and wrote my first poem. The rest is mystery.

Your humble beginnings?

It’s Only Love and That Is All

Metronorth. 7:33 to Manhattan  A man calls a woman and says he has two things to tell her, not three, no four. First, he loves her. Second, contrary to what anyone tells her, he is going to take care of her. Third, she has to trust him, and fourth, it’s going to work out; does she believe him?

How does the story end?

 

It Doesn’t Matter What You Wear

 

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When the publisher is preparing to publish your book, they ask you to answer an “author’s questionnaire.” It has a zillion questions that all boil down to one: who do you know? Who can give you a blurb, who can promote you, who will have you to their bookstore, how many friends and followers do you have, do you have contacts in radio, television, print media. WHere have you been published? Do you have a lecture agent, a TED talk, a platform? Did you go to high school with Stephen Colbert? Smoke weed with Terry Gross? Are you a graduate of this, a member of that. Associations, institutions, clubs that would have you as a member. The more water you can bring to the horse the better. (And this also applies to getting an agent, too. It’s not that having contacts is more important than writing a good book, but showing an ability to get the word out really helps pave the way in a very bumpy marketplace.)

Who did you smoke with?

May Be Factual, May Be Cruel

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Spent hours on an editorial letter today. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t figure out how to say it. I got hung up thinking about the best way to make my case. I’ve never given notes to this particular writer and I wasn’t sure how open she would be to “suggestions.” Sometimes I think writing an editorial letter is like drafting closing arguments in which you roll out a series of facts that feed a particular narrative. Other times, it feels like a dance, tentative at first, then more assured. You both need to manage the writer and not manage the writer inso far as you have to be honest. You have to be willing to be the bad guy, the whistle blower, the fact checker, the naysayer. YOu have to say the emperor’s clothes are shabby and ill-fitting.

Can you handle the truth?

 

 

Put It In the Pantry With Your Cupcakes

 

35945-200x249-thimbleA writer called me today and asked for some advice. His own agent had stopped returning calls and emails. What should he do? I hate to say it but it’s a little like romantic relationships. When someone doesn’t return calls or emails, it’s time to move on. You want an explanation, you want closure, you want another chance, you want a little fucking respect. People usually don’t call back because the news isn’t good and they don’t know how to deliver it. They feel bad, awkward, and it starts to get easier to avoid than face the person. Look, there is no excuse. But it happens. And it happens a lot.  If you’re a writer it’s the air you breathe. You submit your work to magazines and never hear back. You contact agents and never hear back. You finally get an editor and he takes ten months to read your book. You get your book published and no one reviews it.  Your mother doesn’t read it. On and on. What do you do? How do you stay in the game?

What the fuck do you do?

Not Much Longer Would You Be Mine

A publisher told me some years ago that word of mouth was the most effective way to sell books, more than ads, discounts, reviews. People trust other people. I don’t have any data, but it feels true.

What was the last book someone recommended to you that you went out and bought.

 

 

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