Friday, August 22, 2008

Was Bookman Involved?

Here's a news story straight out of that Seinfeld library episode. I've never seen such a happy mugshot.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Remembering Martha

I’m sad to report that earlier this week a friend of mine, Martha Blowen, passed away. Martha was an artist, a papermaker, a publisher, a writing coach, and a lovely, gentle soul. With her partner, Denis Ledoux, Martha started a small Franco-American publishing house called Soleil Press, which focused on memoirs and the immigrant experience. I spent several college summers interning at Soleil Press—copyediting, typing, stuffing envelopes—getting as much publishing experience as I could soak up.

I have many warm memories of sitting around Denis and Martha’s kitchen table drinking tea, looking out at the rolling fields behind their house, talking about the creative process. Their way of life was such an inspiration. Growing up in a small, blue collar town, I had never really known anyone who had given up the grind to do just what they loved—much less for art, which was deemed a frivolous luxury. Money was sometimes tight and they definitely had their struggles, but Martha and Denis were present for their children and for each other in ways that many of us would envy. They showed me there was another way to live.

In Martha’s own words:

“And you also can create the life you want. 'Follow your bliss' is not lightly said. There will be consequences and choices to make, but there's integrity in following what you know you should be doing for yourself.”

She will be missed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Notes

Hannah Tinti, a former colleague of mine from Writers House, has just released her debut novel THE GOOD THIEF. Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-. Read the review here and the fantastic premise and I’m sure it’ll have running to your nearest bookstore to pick up a copy.


Had lunch with Patrick Robbins last week, who is feverishly revising his novel, TO MAKE OTHERS HAPPY, so he can be out of that tin can before the snow flies. I’ve been one of the lucky few to read the first draft, which is best described as HIGH FIDELITY meets THE GREAT GATSBY. I can definitely see this one on the big screen.


On a whim, I decided to see if Tess Gerritsen had returned to blogging after being severely flamed earlier this year. Happily, she has. Check out this entry about what to pack on book tour. She writes that authors have become increasingly casual over the years--if you see an author in a business suit, it means they’ve either written a business book or it’s their first tour. I had to laugh, recalling the navy Brooks Brothers suit I bought for my first tour. I never wore the suit, going instead with simple black pants and a black sweater. I’ve learned since that black is supposedly a bad choice because it makes you seem unapproachable.

Is that why my book signings were always so empty?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Even though I’m a big believer in not taking advantage of people’s kindness, I’m also a big believer in being aggressive when an opportunity is presented to you. If the favorite metaphor for opportunity is a door, I like to think that if someone opens it even just a crack, I’m going to wedge my foot in there to make sure it doesn’t close again.

Haste is your best tool for the job. When someone offers to meet with you or talk with you—no matter how off-handedly the offer is made—try to nail down a date as soon as possible. If someone offers to read your work, get it to them as fast as you can. It shows that you’re serious and keeps the momentum going while you’re still fresh in mind.

An acquaintance of mine once returned from a writers’ conference very excited—she had made contact with an agent who was interested in reading her work. She told me the news a week after the fact, and still hadn’t sent him her work. She was hesitating because she didn’t think her manuscript was in perfect shape. Every day that passed, she grew less and less confident about sending it, and it’s very likely that as each day passed she was fading from the agent’s memory. I didn’t keep in touch with her so I have no idea if she ended up sending it in. If her manuscript was ready enough to pitch at a writers’ conference, then I think her best course of action would have been to FedEx that puppy the second she returned home.

When I tried out for my first ghostwriting job, my writing sample was initially rejected. The editor called to tell me what was wrong with my sample. During the course of the phone conversation, I took copious notes. At the end of the phone call, she said, “If you have any other questions, you can call me and maybe we can meet for coffee sometime.” She said this so casually I don’t think she really expected me to take her up on it. I could have said, “Sure, thanks,” and left it at that, but instead I said, “I’m free next week—is there a day that works for you?”

I’m really not sure where this confidence came from—I just didn’t want the opportunity to slip away. The editor was caught a little off-guard but kindly agreed to meet with me, under the guise of talking more about how my sample needed to be improved…but I had other plans.

In the week prior to our meeting, I spent my time carefully going through her suggestions and studying the series to see what I needed to fix. Then I worked hard to get my sample into shape. We didn’t end up having coffee—instead, we met in her office. She let me know that she was very busy and that I had just a few minutes to ask questions. Instead rehashing our previous discussion, I presented her my revised sample and politely asked her to look it over “just to make sure I was on the right track.” She was taken aback that I was so prepared. She read the first page and hired me on the spot.

When an opportunity arises, you have to be prepared to jump on it.