Thursday, September 11, 2008

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

So today I'm over at Writer Unboxed talking about why I decided not to hire an outside publicist for Time of My Life, but did decide to shell out some cash in other areas.

Check it out here.

And in the meantime, I got a few advance copies of TOML yesterday and snapped a moment for posterity!

On a more sober note, I'm also posting about the plight of a fellow freelance writer, Lori Hall Steele. One of the scariest things about venturing out into the freelance world, as many of you know, is that you often go out there without a net. If you're single, you might not have health insurance; if you haven't had the chance to stow away enough savings, you might risk financial uncertainty. There are a lot of wonderful things about being a freelance writer, but this lack of safety net isn't one of them.

Lori is a member of the group, Freelance Success, which I've raved about here, and to which I owe the success of much of my early freelance career. It's a community where, even when folks barely recognize a name on the forum or know that another writer might snag one of their assignments, they are still supportive, encouraging and will likely become among your closest friends. So now, all of us at from FLX are rallying to Lori's support. Here's why:

First, start by reading Lori's Washington Post essay
here. It's heartbreaking. A year ago, Lori's feet stop working. Next, the paralysis spread to her arms and legs, and she was confined to a wheelchair. From there, her arms abandoned her, and thus, there went her freelance career, the means she used to support both herself and her 7-year old son. Now, within the span of 1-year, the doctors, who initially believed this to be Lyme's Disease, have diagnosed her with ALS, and Lori is paralyzed and on a ventilator. (Yes, I told you this was sobering.) Her insurance company is denying her requests to pay her medical bills, and these bills are expected to soar to well over $100,000. More pressingly, she is going to lose her home imminently because she can't afford to pay her mortgage.

So, because we are part of her community, and because her plight is also our plight, we FLXers are raising a rallying cry. Every one of us with a blog is posting about her situation and hoping that if you have any spare change to donate, that you'll consider offering a small sum to Lori. Because so many freelance writers could be in her position, and because, just because I'm sitting here on my laptop with my mortgage comfortably paid, doesn't mean that I can't feel my friend's pain. Everyone at FLX who can afford to do so is donating $25 (or more), and while I know that these are taxing times for a lot of people, if her story in any way resonated with you, I hope you'll consider helping her out as well. (Other fundraising efforts, such as maxing out at the ASJA fund, are also underway.) So if you find that you can skip some small indulgence and instead offer it to Lori, please click on this
link and donate what you can via paypal.

Here's some words from her essay:

“I tell him I’ll always be here for him, one way or another. Always always always. Just like my mother is here for me. Just like I was there when he was 3. It is an impossible promise, a gamble with his trust. I secretly pray I don’t let him down, not on this.”

Thanks all! And thanks for allowing me to post this.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

GCC Presents: Joanne Rendell and The Professors' Wives' Club

I love Joanne Rendell, an author friend who is also a busy mom and can commiserate with all of the juggling that we working moms do, and I also love the premise of her book, The Professors' Wives Club, which I picked up at Barnes and Noble last week. The premise reminded me a bit of Sex and the City for the academia set: strong friendships, strong women, life crises, life re-evaluations. Check out the description below, and then read on for words of wisdom from Jo herself. (I love her even more for copping to her Facebook addiction!) :)

In her new novel THE PROFESSORS’ WIVES’ CLUB, NYU faculty wife Joanne Rendell tells of four professors’ wives who risk everything to save a beloved faculty garden.

With its iron gate and high fence laced with honeysuckle, Manhattan University’s garden offers faculty wives Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah a much needed refuge. Each of them carries a scandalous secret that could upset their lives, destroy their families, and rock the prestigious university to its very core.

When a ruthless Dean tries to demolish the garden, the four women are thrown together in a fight which enrages and unites them. The wives are an indomitable force. While doing battle with the ambitious dean, they expose the dark underbelly of academia – and find the courage to stand up for their own dreams, passions, and lives.

1) What’s the backstory behind your book?
The initial inspiration The Professors' Wives' Club came amid a rather giggly, wine-soaked evening with one of my girlfriends who, like me, is a professor’s wife. After our usual catch-up, the cabernet began to flow and we found ourselves gossiping about other faculty wives. We talked about a wife planning a boob job; another pregnant with her fifth child. The best piece of gossip came last, however: a professor’s wife who’d just run off with one of her husband’s grad students.

The next morning I started to hammer out my first ideas for the novel. As I typed, the more I realized what intriguing characters professors’ wives would make. Even if they aren’t professors themselves (which many are), most professors’ wives are deeply connected and invested in the university where their husband or partner works. Like my friend and me, they live in faculty housing, they go to the campus gym, often their kids go to the same daycare. Yet these women often have little power when it comes to university decisions.

I liked the idea of pitting these seemingly powerless women against a dean who, in his little kingdom of the university, has so much power.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

Well, I’m a professor's wife and my husband teaches at NYU which looks a lot like the Manhattan U., the university in my novel. Real life and real people sneak into the book, therefore. But they’re always heavily disguised, and I’m not telling exactly where. My husband likes his job at the university too much!

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
I was working on a writing project with a friend and through this friend I met my (now) agent. Almost as an aside, I mentioned to my agent the idea for a novel called The Professors’ Wives’ Club. I remember her looking me dead in the eye and saying, “Write it, it will sell.” So I did and, yep, it sold! Two publishers were interested in the book and there was an auction, which was all very exciting (especially because I was visiting family in Europe at the time and thus I received a flurry of phone calls in the middle of the night!). The Professors’ Wives' Club sold to New American Library in the end, and I’ve had a great experience working with them. They will be publishing my second book next summer (2009).

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What’s your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
Me too! I try hard not to check my emails or idle away time reading Facebook profiles of people I barely know, but somehow the ping of the email or the glow of the Facebook icon always lure me in. In the end, though, I know my writing time is limited. I write when my five year old son sleeps late in the morning. If I don’t write when he’s in the land of nod, then nothing gets done! So, after satisfying me email/Facebook urges, I unplug the internet cable and write for a couple of hours. I have to admit my best writing times have been at our little ramshackle cabin in upstate New York. We have no internet connection, and it's amazing how much I’ve been able to write there. In fact, I wrote nearly half of my second book last summer while at the cabin.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I would cast Susan Sarandon as Mary. Mary is the wife of the ruthless dean in the book and she’s also been on the receiving end of his violent temper. However, she is not some weak, shrinking violet of a woman. She is a successful writer and popular and commanding professor of writing at the university. I think Sarandon would capture these often very real contradictions and show how it is possible to be caught in an abusive marriage even if you are strong and successful woman.

Sofia would have to be played by someone like Selma Hayek. Sofia is a firecracker! She’s feisty and fun, but also sensitive, smart, and intensely loyal. Hayek, I think, could play this beautifully.

Hannah is an artist who’s stuck in a lukewarm marriage to a man who cannot seem to get over the fact his wife is no longer a fashion model. He loves her for her beauty and she wants him to see beyond that. I think Keira Knightley would make a great Hannah.

Finally, my character Ashleigh – who’s been hiding from her senator father the fact that she’s in a relationship with a woman – could be played by someone like Julia Stiles. Stiles was great in Mona Lisa Smile playing a young Wellesley woman who is trying to please those around her and quashing her own desires in the process. I see Ashleigh as a similar kind of role.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Finding Fabu Editors

Question of the day: I'm curious if you have any recommendations on young, hip editors as well, possibly those specializing in the chick-lit genre?

I don't have any specific editors whose names I'd feel comfortable passing along, but the good news is that this info is pretty easy to come by. The best place to start - if you're willing to shell out $20 - is Publishers Marketplace. Type in the name of books that you like and see who edited them. Whether or not they're young and hip by definition, they probably like books like the one I'm guessing you've written. If you don't want to pay for PM (and I think it's an invaluable resource, btw), check out the acknowledgment pages of books you like: nearly every time, an author will thank their editor.

Once you have that info, feel free to google 'em. Yeah, yeah, this might sound stalkery (and it is), but you'd be amazed what you can learn from google. At the very least, you might find out what year she graduated from college, and at the very best, I dunno, maybe you'll glean some insights from her Facebook page.

But. All of that said, I do want to issue a slight warning: yes, there are probably some intangibles that you can discover to see if you'd click with an editor, but, not to be too cliche about things, you can't always judge a book by its cover. By that I mean that just because an editor isn't "young and hip," by your definition, doesn't mean that she won't kick ass as an editor or won't be interested in your chick lit book. Some young/hip editors only read highly literary works while some older-skewing ones adore the lighter fare. So I'm just saying. Sure, go google, go find the editor whom you think you'd want to hang with (and yes, this can also be important, I'm not denying that), but remember that this isn't everything.

Readers: how important is it that you and your editor are friends? That you like her/him outside of just work?