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Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen. amwriting.substack.com

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Episode 208 How to Blend a #CozyThriller

Do mystery and thriller writers ever “pants” their stories? What’s it like to give a dark protagonist some elements of your own history? How much fun is it to fill a book with references to all of your favorite books ever? We cover those things and more with author Peter Swanson, whose new book, Eight Perfect Murders, is a hybrid of psychological thriller and who-dunnit that all three of us loved. Also on the docket: we name our top three most terrifying children’s picture books. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR GUEST:https://www.peter-swanson.com#AmReadingKJ: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie DunmoreStoryworthy, Matthew DicksPeter: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth RussellWhether you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser, we know you consider yourself a writer. You write. Enough said. If you’ve plotted or pantsed your way all the way through any narrative, you know what a tough job that is—and you might be able to help somebody else do it, too. In addition to matching writers with book coaches who help you keep your butt in the chair, our sponsor, Author Accelerator, offers book coach training and certification. If that sounds like it might be the perfect gig for you, head to authoraccelerator.com to learn more. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


24 Apr 2020

Rank #1

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3: #AmOverwhelmed, Killing Other People’s Darlings and Timing Pitches

…in which KJ struggles with killing other people’s darlings and Jess waxes rhapsodic about audiobooks. #amwriting #ampitching #amprocrastinating This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


23 Apr 2016

Rank #2

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106: #FirstTimerMistakes

…in which Jess and KJ are again joined by book coach Jennie Nash, this time to discuss the three most common pitfalls made by new novelists. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


11 May 2018

Rank #3

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Episode 191 #2020Goals

Listen now | Whoa. Fellow writers, 2020 is upon us. AWe're setting the kinds of goals that support our work and lives. Want to do the same? Listen! This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


27 Dec 2019

Rank #4

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Episode 183: #FacebookforWriters

Writers need a page, a profile and a whole lot of patience and persistence to even feel like we’re close to getting Facebook “right.”The question first appeared, as these things do, in the #AmWriting Facebook group. A book is coming! I’m on Facebook (obviously), but do I need an author page in addition to my profile? Why—and what should I do with one once I’ve got one? Our answer is yes, but of course it doesn’t stop there. In this episode, we talk the ins and outs of Facebook for writers of all kinds, with a primer on the basics and then a few ninja-level tips from Sarina.Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, a preview of the #WritersTopFive that will be dropping into #AmWriting supporter inboxes on Monday, November 4, 2019: Top 5 Things You Don’t Need to Be a “Real” Writer. We’d love your support, and we hope you’ll love our Top 5s. Join in for actionable advice you can use for just $7 a month. As always, this episode (and every episode) will appear for all subscribers in your usual podcast listening places, totally free as the #AmWriting Podcast has always been. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it with the shownotes and a transcript every time there’s a new episode. To support the podcast and help it stay free, subscribe to our weekly #WritersTopFive email.LINKS FROM THE PODCASTThe #AmWriting Facebook GroupGrown and Flown on FacebookRon Lieber’s Author Facebook PageSarina’s Facebook PageSarendipity (Sarina’s Facebook Fan Group)Jess’s Facebook PageKJ’s Facebook Page, which she didn’t even remember existed but will now tend as directed by Sarina.ManyChat#AmReading (Watching, Listening)Jess: Home, Run Away, Harlan Coben (also mentioned, Tell No One)KJ: Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J. Ryan StradalSarina: Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo#FaveIndieBookstoreGibson’s, Concord NHThis episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.The image in our podcast illustration is by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)KJ:                                        00:01                    Hello listeners, KJ here. If you’re in with us every week, you’re what I like to call “people of the book.’ And some of us book people discover somewhere along the way that not only we writers, we’re people with a gift for encouraging other writers. For some of us, that comes out in small ways, but for others it’s a calling and an opportunity to build a career doing work you love. Our sponsor, Author Accelerator, provides book coaching to authors (like me) but also needs and trains book coaches. If that’s got your ears perked up, head to https://www.authoraccelerator.com and click on “become a book coach.” Is it recording?Jess:                                     00:02                    Now it's recording, go ahead.KJ:                                        00:45                    This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don't remember what I was supposed to be doing.Jess:                                     00:45                    Alright, let's start over.KJ:                                        00:45                    Awkward pause, I'm going to rustle some papers.Jess:                                     00:45                    Okay.KJ:                                        00:54                    Now one, two, three. Hey all, I'm KJ Dell'Antonia and this is #AmWriting. #AmWriting is your podcast, your weekly podcast, our podcast, about writing all the things. Fiction, nonfiction, pitches, proposals, essays you know what? All the things, except poetry. None of us do that. But we did have a poet on once. I dunno, I just was thinking that the other day like, wait a minute, it's not quite all the things. Alright, back to the regularly scheduled introduction. #AmWriting is the podcast about sitting down and getting your work, whatever it is, done.Jess:                                     01:40                    KJ, before I introduce myself, speaking of the intro changing up, we got an email this week from someone who said, 'Wait, you changed the pattern at the beginning of the episode and I don't know what to do with that.' It was very, very funny.KJ:                                        01:54                    I love that people go back and listen to all the episodes. It brings me incredible joy.Jess:                                     01:58                    Yes, it does. I am Jess Lahey, I'm the author of the Gift of Failure and a forthcoming book about preventing substance abuse in kids. And I write at various places including the New York Times, Washington Post and the Atlantic.Sarina:                                 02:13                    And I'm Sarina Bowen, the author of 30 plus contemporary romance novels. And you can find more of me at sarinabowen.com.KJ:                                        02:22                    And I am KJ Dell'Antonia, a novelist and also the author of the nonfiction book How to Be a Happier Parent, first novel will be out next summer, more to come I hope. You'll sometimes still find my work at the New York Times and in a variety of other places. So that's it, that's who we are. We know some things and today our plan is to talk about what we know about Facebook. But before we do, I just want to thank everyone who has gone in and subscribed to our weekly emails that come out every week about the podcast. That is a new thing that we're doing and I love that people are finding it useful. Every week we send you little something about what the episode is, all the links, and a way to see a transcript, which is pretty cool. And also huge shout out and thanks to those of you who have signed up to support the podcast and get our weekly top fives for writers. It's huge, we feel so grateful and excited that you guys want to support us, and want to be a part of it, and want to get our top fives, which we're having a great time doing. So you know, thanks to everyone for that. And if you're looking to do either of those things, head over to amwritingpodcast.com and you'll find all the links there.Jess:                                     03:42                    Alright, let's do it. You said our topic is Facebook. What do you mean about this Facebook thing?KJ:                                        03:54                    Well, it's a great place to put up pictures of your kids and offend all your relatives on your political views. But as a writer, people have questions like, 'Should you have an author page and a personal page? Should you do everything from your personal page? How has this evolved over the years? And I have wrestled with it. Sarina has come to some pretty good terms with it and I'll just also throw out there that back in 2013 when I started with the Times, they actually said to me, 'We do not want to create a Facebook page for the Motherlode blog, which doesn't exist anymore anyway. So just use your own. It was one of the best gifts that they gave me. I don't think it was actually the right choice for them, but well, and here and today I'm sitting here with no author page, but the AmWriting page and everything I do professionally ends up on my personal page and I'm not sure that's where I should be.Jess:                                     05:01                    I'm a mess. Sarina, you go cause you've got a whole thing. You use it beautifully.Sarina:                                 05:07                    Well, thank you. But we have to talk about vocabulary for a second. Because people have a profile, not a page. And we just want to be careful to use that vocabulary correctly because if listeners go and try to untangle our suggestions, they might run into a little trouble. So every person, like the way that we would define a person has the right under the Facebook terms of service, to have one profile. So, if you use a pseudonym for your writing, you may find yourself in the awkward position of trying to fake it to Facebook that you can have two profiles. And yeah, so that's a good time. But the profile is the main way that most people look at Facebook, you login with your profile. Now a page, you can have as many pages as you want. A page is meant to be representing something that's not a person. Like a brand or a business or it can be a person, like a personality. So I have a profile under Sarina White Bowen, it's three words. And then I have a Sarina Bowen page. And pages and profiles have different things that they can do, they're not identical in their functionality. And that's why we get into these tricky discussions because the way that pages and profiles behave is not identical and that's where some of the weird fun comes in.Jess:                                     06:54                    Well and honestly that's where most of my apathy/confusion lies. Mainly because for me, my profile, Jessica Lahey. Actually, I think my profile is Jessica Potts Lahey because my maiden name is Potts. So that's my personal profile, the thing I originally signed up for Facebook with. That has long since gone out the window as a private, personal thing. Like I get 30 friend requests a day and I accept some and don't. But most of them are people I don't even know. I've just long since given up the ghost on that. But it is how I keep in touch with childhood friends and high school acquaintances and things like that. Then I also have a page as Jessica Lahey and that was something my publisher wanted and it was important to them. But see, here's the problem - if you're accepting any old person out there to your profile, and I'm posting things to my page and to my profile and honestly, there's a lot of overlap between the two. I wish I'd been more strategic about this from the beginning. And I somehow had a profile that was really just personal stuff and then shuttled everyone else over to my page, like put up kind of some kind of like, 'No, I will not friend you, but here's my page.' I wish I'd been more strategic about that, but I didn't and so now I have a mess. I have, two things, neither of which is personal, and both kind of get duplicate posts.Sarina:                                 08:28                    Well, I could make you feel better by telling you that we're all in the same mess, honestly. Because Facebook has treated the two things differently over time. So, it used to be that in the glory days of 2010 you could make a page and even if you'd gotten this right from the very first day...Jess:                                     08:53                    If I could have seen the future...Sarina:                                 08:55                    Well, that's the thing. You would have still not been able to do it exactly right because the behavior that would have been optimized at the time would have changed. So back in the glory days, you could've made that page that you were just talking about and kept your profile private and you could have posted the things you were writing and thinking about it on this page and people would see it and they would interact with you and your page would grow, and grow, and grow. And you might have like 30,000 followers. However, Facebook has very much become a pay to play platform and now they would want you to pay every time you put up a post on your page that you wanted more than say 5% of your followers to see. So the fact that when you share meaningful things on your profile, at least there's some chance that the people who are connected to you will see it. So it's not entirely clear to me that you wouldn't be a very sad owner of a highly followed page by this point. But everybody who relies upon Facebook to push content into the world has been increasingly unhappy with their results because it's not just that Facebook wants your money (and they absolutely do want it), but also just the number of pages in the world grew at such an exponential rate that they can't actually show everybody all the stuff that they're following anymore. Like if you liked your dentist's office in 2013, then you know, the odds of you actually seeing a post from the dentist are really bad. Like the pages who you might actually see are the people who have been out there working it so hard since the very beginning, with a nice pace of content release, and a good interaction that...it's very few pages that are still getting that kind of play. You mentioned that you get a lot of friend requests. Facebook actually caps the number of friends you can have at 5,000.Jess:                                     11:05                    Early on I think it was like 2000 or something. But yeah, it's definitely 5,000. I'm getting close and that worries me. Because what if someone I really want to follow, that's why I don't accept all of them or even real people...KJ:                                        11:19                    People don't know you didn't accept them. And probably most of their goals is just to follow you, which is what happens if someone puts in a friend request and you say no, they end up following you.Jess:                                     11:32                    That's right. Yeah, I forgot about that.KJ:                                        11:35                    At least you've got that going for you.Sarina:                                 11:36                    So, another factor is that now Messenger is tied in with the people you're friends with on Facebook. So I have stopped accepting friend requests completely, unless of course I met the person.KJ:                                        11:51                    Unless it's your friend.Sarina:                                 11:53                    Or, but I got some friend requests after that retreat we went to in Maine and I accepted those. But I don't accept random requests anymore because I've discovered it's just a way for readers to bug me. Like when is such and such a thing coming out and you know, there just aren't enough hours in the day for me to do a good job answering those messages.Jess:                                     12:16                    Actually, I'm so glad you said that because that has been a source of anxiety and frustration for me in that the number of direct messages I'm getting via various apps has gone through the roof and it's a lot of people asking very personal questions about their own children. I got one the other day and she sent me this long, long, long message about what she's going through with her child. And she wrote the word please and she sent a picture of herself with her child.KJ:                                        12:48                    I wish you could auto reply from Messenger. Because if you had that that said, 'I'm sorry, I can't...' I suppose you could just type one. Okay, we're going to get back to how everyone should use Facebook in a second, but just to solve this particular problem with which I am somewhat familiar, type something up, and imagine yourself as your assistant. 'I'm sorry, Mrs. Lahey can't respond to all.' And you know you're gonna feel like a jerk, but Mrs. Lahey can't respond personally to everyone and that leaves you the freedom to do it. To take a step back, we have people on our Facebook group page, which is a whole other thing, and is a great tool for various kinds of authors, particularly I think in nonfiction. Someone was saying, 'Here I am and my first book is coming out and should I create an author page?' And there are reasons to say yes to that, I think.Sarina:                                 14:07                    Yes, there are. One of the reasons you might need an author page is if you want to advertise something, you can't advertise from a profile, you have to advertise from a page. So, the main reason that the Sarina Bowen author page continues to grow a following is because of paid advertising. And when you use paid advertising you collect likes sort of by accident. So you should never run the kind of ad that just gets likes because that's pointless. But if you have something to advertise like 'Look, this is my new book. Here is the link at Apple books.' Then that is something I advertise and the page does grow its following that way. So I would say that if you have even a 20% chance of ever wanting to advertise something, you should set up that author page. But then you should not obsess about how many followers it has. You should post only often enough so that it looks like the lights are on. And you don't need to worry about it. It needs to be set up so that there's somewhere people can find this kind of information, like the link to join your newsletter, and the link for your own personal webpage. So you need to be listed there because a lot of people will use Facebook as like a global directory. So you need to be find-able, but you do not need to obsess about how many people are following you there. So you can really put it as one of those things on your Sunday promo calendar where you're like, 'Oh, time to stop by the neighborhood of my Facebook page and maybe update something. You know, a book I'm reading or an article I put out this week.'Jess:                                     16:05                    I use it for my speaking calendar, too. Like you know, 'Oh I'm going to be in the next week or month or whatever I'm going to be in so-and-so.' One thing I would like to add is that so early on in my promotion plan for Gift of Failure, my publisher very much wanted me to have a Facebook page because one of the things they did during my pub week was that I added my publisher as an administrator to my Facebook page and they posted a couple of ads. So that was wonderful and helpful.KJ:                                        16:37                    That's really nice. I have not heard of a publisher doing that, which just means I haven't heard of it. I advertised my book personally a couple of times. But I actually did it from the #AmWriting page, I think, because we have a page and I don't remember if I have a page.Jess:                                     17:00                    I think they did two or three ads just during pub week itself. And that was nice. They wanted to know as part of my original, the fact that I had one was what interested them. So I don't think they actually care that much about my followers. Who knows. Anyway, I want to make sure that was in there.KJ:                                        17:22                    When you pay to place a Facebook ad from your page, that has nothing to do with how many followers your page has. It goes to that subset of people that you hopefully carefully create within the Facebook ad maker.Sarina:                                 17:40                    That's right. The ad engine is a vast thing. There are entire podcasts about the Facebook ad engine. So, we won't cover that today but it does give you access to basically everyone on Facebook and Instagram.Jess:                                     17:58                    And you can target very carefully and all that sort of thing?Sarina:                                 18:00                    Yes, sort of carefully. But yes.Jess:                                     18:03                    Okay. Anything else here?Sarina:                                 18:06                    I do have a page and I do have a group, cause you mentioned groups, and groups are lovely and for a couple of reasons. One is that they gel with what Mark Zuckerberg claims to be his new idea for what Facebook should be, which is groups of like-minded people talking to each other. So I actually have a fan group on Facebook.Jess:                                     18:41                    I belong and I love it. I love your fan group and it is so much fun to go in there and look at what's being posted. I love your fan group.Sarina:                                 18:51                    It's called Sarendipity and I'm deeply uncomfortable with the idea of having a fandom. I don't like to use the word fan, I'm not saying that I don't use it, but I don't really want to be that person. It's kind of like there's always a party that I'm hosting and I have to show up, you know. But what happens is that people tend to go there to talk about things that come up in my books and it really takes the pressure off of me. So in May, I had this book where one of the characters, who was known as lobster shorts, that was his avatar on an app. And one of the central conceits of the book is that the other person in the book doesn't know that lobster shorts is really his neighbor. So they have this whole conversation and I swear there are still people posting various lobster clothing in my group, you know, five months later I'm still seeing, look at this lobster shirt I found. So that's super fun because then the discussion doesn't have to be about whether or not you liked the book or what I'm having for lunch. It's like a commonality. This thing that we've all found funny and here's a little more of it. So my group is full of posts about apples because of one of my series.Jess:                                     20:21                    Your group also, I have to say, there was one thread that was posted by one of your fans and it was a question and it was, 'How did you discover Sarina Bowen?' And it was one of the most and incredibly fascinating look at how readers find authors. Some of them were, 'I discovered her through Elle Kennedy, I was an Elle Kennedy reader.' Some were, 'Amazon recommended Sarina because I read X'. It was fascinating and it was a wealth of information about how people stumble upon new authors. I loved reading that thread.Sarina:                                 20:56                    You're right, that was fascinating. But you also said that I didn't post it. There are lots of authors who do ask that question, who are able to ask questions about themselves without wanting to jump off something high. And, but I can't, it's just not me to do that. There's also other romance authors who posts like Towel Tuesday. And so on Tuesday there'll be some photo of a guy in a towel and the other romance readers are like, 'Ooh, good one.'KJ:                                        21:23                    I thought it was going to be the author and a towel. That's brave.Sarina:                                 21:29                    Well now you're really scaring me. That's not me either. And I really struggle with what is my role in that group. And there are so many ways to do it. And if you are a person, as an author, who is comfortable hosting that kind of party all the time, then the group is probably your greatest asset.KJ:                                        21:54                    Alternatively, if you are a person who, as an author, wants to generally answer those kinds of questions that Jess is getting by Messenger, who has a nonfiction platform, which is self-help or that kind of thing you could create... Yeah. Ron Lieber does it really well, that's what you were going to say.Jess:                                     22:26                    No, I was going to say Grown and Flown, Lisa Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington, they do that incredibly well. They use those questions as fodder for posts on their massive, massive group for Grown and Flown.KJ:                                        22:42                    Right, but they started out as a group and a blog and only later became a book. I guess what I'm saying is if you are Lori Gottlieb, or you, or Ron Lieber, you could use Facebook to start a group in which people discuss the topic of your book. But, I think that there would be a pretty high maintenance requirement there. I mean, at a certain point it would probably become somewhat self sustaining, but for a while I feel like it would be really demanding that you find and put up questions, and respond to things, and keep track. I think that'd be a pretty big time investment, but it might be a worthwhile one.Jess:                                     23:30                    It would be a big investment.KJ:                                        23:31                    I'm not suggesting you do it, this is a general. Let me just say, I don't think that's you, you need to write books. But there might be people for whom it would be a great strategy. For example, the author of Quiet, Susan Cain has said, 'I thought about writing another book and then I realized, no, my mission is to keep talking about this one.' She does it in a different forum. But if that's where you are, if your mission for the next few years is to talk about the topic of your nonfiction probably. Then that could be good.Jess:                                     24:15                    As a speaker, I have to say, reader questions are incredible fodder for either articles, new chapters, blog posts, things to talk about on stage. I have this sort of wealth of stories and many of them came from readers who wrote me, or posted, or messaged, or whatever and said, 'Here's what's going on and here's how I've used the things you wrote about.' So that can be an incredibly valuable thing and if you want to mine that for all it's worth, a little bit of effort could pay off big time.KJ:                                        24:47                    Right. All right, so we got the basics. You've probably already got your profile. Certainly there's no one in our Facebook group asking questions about how to use Facebook that doesn't already have a profile. You're gonna need a page, but you don't need to do anything more there besides keep the lights on. You could contemplate a group, you need to think about how you use Messenger, and what else? What am I missing in terms of the basics?Sarina:                                 25:14                    Well, we definitely covered the basics, but I could give you a couple of ninja level things. So my page has an auto-responder that is hosted by a service called ManyChat. So if you go to the Sarina Bowen page and you hit the button there to send a message, you will immediately get a reply from a bot and it says something like, 'Hello. And then insert first name of person. Thank you for reaching out. The best place to find information about upcoming Sarina Bowen books is this link right here.'Jess:                                     26:09                    Brilliant.KJ:                                        26:13                    That's for Messenger messages or postsSarina:                                 26:17                    Messenger, but it's Messenger to the page, not the profile. So it also says, 'And if you are a man who just wants to chat or show me your photo, you will not like my response.'KJ:                                        26:35                    Even if you're wearing a towel. Especially if you're wearing a towel.Jess:                                     26:39                    I do like that when I get messages like that, like gross, disgusting, stuff like that. Often for example, in Instagram it will shield it from your view. And so in order to see whatever picture someone has sent you, you have to actually click on it. And I have decided not to click on a few things that I receive via the messaging part of Instagram.Sarina:                                 27:05                    Weirdly, the what to blur out trigger is really strange, though. Because I click on them all the time and it's usually like just a photo of a book on a table and it's like my book, you know. So that's one thing that you can hook up. Now, this is the ninja super top secret thing is that also ManyChat, will collect the identities of everyone who ever messages you.Jess:                                     27:34                    To what end, Sarina? To what end?Sarina:                                 27:40                    I will tell you. A page can also always message whomever has messaged the page before. So if you run a contest where to enter the contest, you send the page a message, then ManyChat can retain that list of hundreds of people and then randomly messaged them when you decide. So I could right now just blanket message, all the whatever thousand people who've ever messaged my page before with, 'Hey, guess what? I have a new book.'.Jess:                                     28:16                    Oh my gosh, you're so brilliant.Sarina:                                 28:17                    I don't actually use it, though. Because I find that people are very confused about whether I'm messaging them personally this way. Like it's not common enough a thing to break down that wall. And I don't actually want people to think that I'm messaging them. So, it's not a useful tool for me, but it does exist. And the other Ninja level thing is about the page itself and how nobody sees them anymore. So I do keep track. My page has either 14 or 17,000 followers. I can't remember right now. And the average post is seen by like 1200 people. So it's less than 10%. But if I didn't do certain things, then it would drop even further because the Facebook algorithm looks carefully at each post to decide if it's going to love you or not. So if you're always posting Amazon links then it hates that. But if you're always posting to your own website, it hates that less. And if you're posting text with no links or pictures at all, it loves that because that seems really genuine to Facebook. Like if you just have a haiku to share or something.Jess:                                     29:53                    Is that why people started doing that thing where they started posting in the first comment instead of in the post itself?Sarina:                                 29:59                    The link? Yeah, the link in the comments. Yeah. I'm not sure. I think Facebook caught onto that immediately, though.KJ:                                        30:05                    So, interesting, completely random side note, Facebook doesn't want you to sell animals anymore. And of course Facebook is actually the largest place to advertise horses. So our barn manager, I just turned her on to go ahead and put a picture, but you put the link or you put the ad in the comments. Because if you put an ad they throw it off and it's got to do with puppy mills and that kind of thing, which I'm totally supportive of. But Facebook killed all the sites upon which people once sold horses and they have not yet been replaced with anything. And it's a problem. But, that does still work to some extent I think. The link in the comments.Sarina:                                 30:57                    Okay, well this is how I handle it. A page can also have what are called top fans. That is Facebook's word for it. So if you turn this feature on to your page, you might have to have a certain number of followers, I don't know what it is. You turn on the top fan badge and then Facebook will actually track for you who it considers to be your top fans. I believe I have, I don't know, a couple hundred of them. And top fan badges are earned by commenting on things and liking things. So I actually run a giveaway like once a month we pick a random top fan and they get to have a prize of their choosing and the prizes are a signed book shipped anywhere, an item from the Sarina Bowen swag store, or a bad, but flattering poem in your honor.Jess:                                     31:56                    While we're on the topic and because I have helped you with some of this in the past and I have had to deal with it myself, when you run these sorts of things and you say shipped anywhere, just keep in mind how much it costs to ship to Australia. Just keep it in mind. Just think about it when you do it.KJ:                                        32:14                    There's a reason people do U.S. only and apologies to those who can't participate, but whoa.Sarina:                                 32:23                    Yeah, one book to Australia is $22.50 and yesterday I shipped a box to France for $57 50. Ouch., right?KJ:                                        32:35                    Groups have a similar thing to the top fan, which is the conversation starters.Jess:                                     32:40                    Yeah, I love that. And there's also like a visual storyteller. We have it in our group and, according to our group, I'm an administrator, but I'm also a visual storyteller because I post a lot of pictures to our group.KJ:                                        32:53                    Well, no prizes for you. I'm sorry.Sarina:                                 32:55                    Well, the point of giving prizes to top fans is to give an incentive to comment. If you were to go look at my page right now (and I have no idea what the last thing we posted), but you'll see like 'Can't wait' and just people chiming in and the chiming in tells the Facebook algorithm that that piece of content is valuable or interesting. So Facebook will give it a little more love. I mean there are days when it feels like my entire job is to try to outwit the Facebook algorithm and not everybody needs to think like this or operate like this, but it's quite the rabbit hole.Jess:                                     33:37                    Well, and we've talked about this in the past, is that certain social media platforms are great for certain things. And for me it's Twitter and for you it's Facebook. And we've talked about this in the past and partially it's a self-perpetuating thing. But when Sarina goes on my webpage (which I let her do from time to time and look at where my traffic's coming from) you know, mine's coming from Twitter and hers overwhelmingly comes from Facebook. So if you know that the genre that you write in is Facebook oriented, then this is really helpful information. For me, I'm trying to figure out how to best use Facebook. And it may be different for nonfiction authors, but I think when you know that that's where your fans are it's worth spending a little bit extra time and effort, as you do, to engage that audience. It's all about decision making.Sarina:                                 34:27                    And in order to remove some of the emotion from it. So yesterday I got very depressed because I have a book launch coming up and I realized just how much I hate launching. Like it's a kind of a popularity contest that I don't really want to enter. I don't enjoy that week of share me, share me, love me, buy me. So one of the ways that I get around this is that every two months I take note of where the growth in my social media following is happening. So I'll just note the totals of how many followers are on the page, how many people in the group, how many on Instagram, how many on BookBub and how many on my newsletter list. Not because I'm obsessed with the totals, but because I want to know which thing is growing the fastest?KJ:                                        35:23                    Where should you invest your time?Sarina:                                 35:25                    Right? Where is the heat? So that I don't obsess about my Facebook page if that's not obsessable this week.KJ:                                        35:34                    Well, my loose take on what Facebook is good for is nonfiction of the kind that I have written and that Jess writes, parenting stuff, family oriented stuff, self-help style stuff. Basically, probably nonfiction with more of a female audience. I don't know what I mean, Facebook is definitely both genders. Does it skew female? Do we know?Jess:                                     36:07                    I don't know, but I do know that parenting stuff, at least from my perspective, does incredibly well on Facebook. And then the added bonus is that some of the outfits I write for like the New York Times and the Atlantic and Washington Post have very active Facebook pages. And when they post my stuff to Facebook, holy moly, the shares for those articles go through the roof. And then of course other Facebook pages pick up those articles. And I'm very lucky in that some of my more evergreen content the Atlantic will repost from time to time, thus revitalizing an article I wrote four years ago, which is lovely. Yeah. So from that perspective it's really useful.KJ:                                        36:47                    Well, I often think of it is Twitter for serious nonfiction, Facebook for lighter nonfiction, Instagram for fiction. But I think that is just a gross, gross oversimplification as evidenced by the fact that Sarina makes a really good use of Facebook. And Facebook's ads for fiction, especially independently published fiction, are kind of I think without parallel. And there's no barrier to entry like there is on Instagram. You can't advertise on Instagram. You can't even link on Instagram. You can't advertise either, can you? Am I right, Sarina?Sarina:                                 37:23                    You could advertise on Instagram.KJ:                                        37:25                    Oh you can still advertise, okay. Alright, fine. Well, this is good. Okay.Jess:                                     37:31                    This is really helpful.KJ:                                        37:32                    We've laid out some useful basics, given me some ideas. I hope we've given some of the rest of you guys ideas. Oh my gosh. Books.Jess:                                     37:56                    Yeah, do we want to talk about what we've been reading? I have a new author that I've recently discovered that's fun to read. You know there are certain really popular authors that are sort of are in the periphery of your awareness and yet you never actually listened to them. I finally listened to a Harlan Coben book recently. So I listened to Harlan Coben because a narrator that I really, really enjoy - Steven Weber, he played one half of the duo on the show Wings in the 80s, and he's still out there doing some great stuff. He's an audio book narrator and I happen to love his audio narration voice. You can click not only on authors in a lot of apps, but you can click on the narrator, too. So if you really like a narrator, try other things they've narrated. And that's what I did. And I've been listening to a Harlan Coben book. I listened to one called Home that was kind of interesting, but now I'm listening to one called Run Away (it's two separate words). I think it's his newest one. The opening was so beautifully done - and what's really fun about Harlan Coben is that he's funny without trying to be comic. Like he's just a witty writer and it's really fun in a way that I don't get to read a lot. And so he's highly prolific. There's tons out there. He has series. He has stand alones and so it's nice to have a new author to be able to dip into and learn new things from. So that's Harlan Coben Run Away so far I'm loving it. Home was really, really interesting. I like that one, too.Sarina:                                 39:32                    Well, Jess, I love Harlan Coben. And there's a lot to learn there, also. One of his novels (my favorite one) was made into a movie in French.Jess:                                     39:49                    What's the book?Sarina:                                 39:51                    I'm trying to figure that out right now. Tell No One. It's a wonderful novel.Jess:                                     39:56                    I actually originally heard about him because Stephen King talks about him a lot. I think they're buds or something or he just really likes his work, but I just never occurred to me to listen to any of his books or read any of his books. But I'm glad I am.Sarina:                                 40:13                    Yeah. So Tell No One, it's a great read and it's a lovely movie where they've changed in New York to Paris and you know, enjoy. The book I'm reading is Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. It's a wonderful novel that is actually fantasy. I'm probably mis-genre-ing this novel right now. There's magic in it, but I swear this book it's probably going to do great, but it's like written just for me. It takes place in New Haven and on the Yale campus and it supposes that the secret societies are actually each the holder of a special kind of magic. It's hilarious and I have so many questions about - they basically didn't bother changing the names of anything. They just went for it. And I'm fascinated.KJ:                                        41:17                    I love that. And yeah, there was just something on our Facebook page someone going, 'Should I use a real town? Should I slightly change the town?' And I think that is always an interesting question because we're all sort of asking ourselves, 'Well, do I have permission to use all the names of the secret societies at Yale? Do I need permission? Is there a secret society that will come after me if I failed to ask permission?' Yeah, that's really cool. It sounds like a fun book, too. Oh, mine. So two weeks ago, I think, I shouted out The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal. And I also (because I loved The Lager Queen so much) grabbed his first book, which is Kitchens of the Great Midwest and similarly, it's a lot of fun.KJ:                                        42:08                    It's smart fiction. It's very, very readable. And this is a fun example of something else we were talking about two weeks ago, which is following an author throughout their career. Now, J. Ryan Stradal (who is a man, at least based on his author picture) only has two books. And Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the first one and The Lager Queen is the second one. And Kitchens of the Great Midwest is good, I really enjoyed it. Lager Queen is better in a lot of technical, and also just sort of reader grabbing kinds of ways, and that is just fun to see. It's fun to watch people evolve, but they're both really fun books.Jess:                                     42:49                    Cool, excellent.KJ:                                        42:52                    Bookstore? I know we have a favorite Indie because we talked about it.Jess:                                     42:52                    Yes, we do. We did. We would like to talk about Gibsons. Gibsons is a bookstore in New Hampshire, in Concord, New Hampshire. And for me, it holds a place in my heart because it was one of the places I first spoke about Gift of Failure to an audience (unfortunately it was pouring rain that night) to an audience of I believe four. Two people who had come for the book talk and one person who was trying to get out of the rain and had no idea what they were doing there and a staff member of the bookstore. So despite that, is a fantastic bookstore. I love it there. They have great curation. I think, Sarina, you talked about really enjoying that bookstore, too.Sarina:                                 43:37                    I also did an event. For my, the women's fiction novel failure that we don't talk about anymore.Jess:                                     43:46                    And did you have more than four people?Sarina:                                 43:47                    I had 12. Well, for debut fiction it wasn't bad at all. It was a lovely, engaged audience. And the staff is so lovely and I've been to other's events there as well and they always just do a fabulous job.Jess:                                     44:32                    I have to get back to writing. And so until next week, everybody, keep your butts in the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


1 Nov 2019

Rank #5

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4: #AmInterviewing, The Art of the Interview and Ignoring the Inbox

…in which KJ shares her love of sheep and Jess offers some sensible sources for inspiration. #amwriting #ampitching #amprocrastinating #aminterviewing This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


30 Apr 2016

Rank #6

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75: #NovelPreparations

...in which Jess and KJ grill superstar guest Sarina Bowen about what you need before you sit down to write your novel next month. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


6 Oct 2017

Rank #7

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159: #StoryGenius

Story expert Lisa Cron joins Jess and KJ to dig into the mechanics of a good book, including the difference between plot and story, and looking beyond “what happened” to “why did it happen”.To talk to Lisa Cron is--unless you've already read Story Genius or Wired for Story--to possibly flip everything you thought you knew about story--fiction, nonfiction, short, long, whatever--onto its head.Story, she points out, isn't plot. It isn't what happens, and then what happens next, and then what happens next. It's the why behind those happenings. It's not, well, a spaceship just landed on the green in front of the library, and I'll either a) rush towards it or b) head for my car.It's WHY I do those things. It's not just what I do next, but what it is about me, now the main character in this rather stressful tale that may end with us all being the entrees on some giant interstellar menu, that makes me make the no doubt terrible choices that I make (good choices make bad books). And that's my backstory. Which brings me to one of the many, many quick-write-that-down moments in this episode. Backstory isn't backstory. It IS the story. It informs every line of every page, every decision, every "because of this, then that," right up until the end, when whatever screwed me up in the first place becomes something I can overcome in order to win the aliens over and persuade them that we're not tasty after all (before I fry them with my laser gun and it's alien nuggets for everyone, with a variety of dipping sauces).Our guest, Lisa Cron, is the author of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel* [*Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere] (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781607748892) and Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781607742456) . She also contributed to Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published. (https://writerunboxed.com/2016/06/09/author-in-progress/)#AmReadingJess sings the praises of The Lewis Trilogy (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781549174162) , Peter MayLisa recommends Everything I Never Told You (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780143127550) , Celeste NgKJ is still finishing her favorite novel of this year so far, There's a Word for That (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316437165) , Sloane Tanen.#FaveIndieBookstoreBook Soup (https://www.booksoup.com/) , Los AngelesThis episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.Find more about Jess here (http://www.jessicalahey.com/) , and about KJ here (https://kjdellantonia.com/) .If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship (https://www.marginallypodcast.com/) . This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


17 May 2019

Rank #8

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150: #NeverReady

Mary Laura Philpott on how to launch a book into the world, with a few regrets and ideas for do-overs. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


15 Mar 2019

Rank #9

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116: #YouHaveTime

...in which Jess and KJ speak with author Laura Vanderkam about how to find time in even your busy schedule to write. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


20 Jul 2018

Rank #10

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Episode 193: #WriterDreamsComeTrue

She writes Emmy-winning television comedy, bestselling children’s books, plays, and sentences for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Is there nothing Jill Twiss can’t do?Musical theater actress and stand-up comic Jill Twiss dreamed of writing for television but did not know how to break in to the world of late-night comedy shows. The stars aligned when a few supportive women called some chits on her behalf, and lo, she landed a spot in the writing room of the Emmy-award winning show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Her work on Last Week Tonight has earned her multiple Emmys, WGA and Peabody Awards, and led to a series of bestselling children’s books as well as the opportunity to write humorous “Can I have that word in a sentence, please?” hints for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. This week, Jill and Jess talk about how Jill got her start in television, her love of Vice President Mike Pence’s pet rabbit Marlon Bundo, how her children’s books came to be, their shared need for pressing deadlines, and Jill’s play-in-progress about the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, you know we dropped the Top Five Ways to Find the Right Agent to pitch into everyone’s inbox last Monday. What will our supporters find there this Monday? It’s SO FRESH WE DON’T EVEN KNOW. But if you become a supporter, you will. Support the podcast you love AND get weekly #WriterTopFives with actionable advice you can use for just $7 a month. As always, this episode (and every episode) will appear for all subscribers in your usual podcast listening places, totally free as the #AmWriting Podcast has always been. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it with the shownotes and a transcript every time there’s a new episode. Want to share this one? Click here to share on Facebook, and here for an editable tweet. LINKS FROM THE PODCAST#AmReading (Watching, Listening)Jess: Good Luck with That by Kristan HigginsJill: The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan KoisOur guest for this episode is Jill Twiss.Last Week Tonight with John OliverA Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo The Someone NewEveryone Gets a SayThe Marlon Bundo episode of Last Week Tonight (full episode): Just the excerpt about A Day in The Life of Marlon Bundo with a clip of the animated all-star cast audiobook: This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.The image in our podcast illustration is by Kate DeCarvalho. The music in our podcast is by Max Cohen.Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)KJ:                                        00:01                    Hello fellow writers. The beginning of the year is a great time to think about what you really want from your writing life and if one of the things that's filled you with joy in the past is time spent encouraging, editing, and helping another writer you might want to consider becoming a book coach yourself. Our sponsor, Author Accelerator provides book coaching to authors like me, but also needs and trains book coaches. And they'll be hosting a free book coaching summit in January for anyone who wants to learn more. If that's got your ears perked up, head to authoraccelerator.com/summit. Is it recording?Jess:                                     00:39                    Now it's recording.KJ:                                        00:40                    Yay.Jess:                                     00:40                    Go ahead.KJ:                                        00:41                    This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone and try to remember what I was supposed to be doing.Jess:                                     00:45                    Alright, let's start over.KJ:                                        00:47                    Awkward pause and I'm going to rustle some papers.Jess:                                     00:50                    Okay.KJ:                                        00:50                    Now one, two, three.Jess:                                     00:58                    Hey, I'm Jess Lahey and this is #AmWriting. Our podcast about writing all the things, the podcast about sitting down, getting the work done and often that work looks like pitches, looks like queries, looks like invoicing so that you can get paid for all that stuff. But really this is just the podcast about the nuts and bolts of being a writer.Sarina:                                 01:22                    I'm Sarina Bowen, when I do my writing it's about fiction and novels. I'm the author of 30-odd romance novels and my new one is called Heartland.Jess:                                     01:32                    And I'm Jess, again. And my work of writing is about mostly nonfiction and I'm in the process of writing a new book and in the process of editing it. But my first book is the Gift of Failure, How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. And we are missing KJ again today. She is still hockey tournament-ing. And we are going to have an interview today with someone really, really cool. But I wanted to catch you at the beginning of this, Sarina to tell you that you and our guest today have something in common.Sarina:                                 02:01                    We do, what?Jess:                                     02:03                    So a couple of years ago you sent us a text, KJ and myself, a text about the fact that someone had gotten a tattoo in your honor. And are we still at a couple of people, two people who have tattoos of your books?Sarina:                                 02:18                    I know of three...Jess:                                     02:19                    Three people. And what do they have on their bodies?Sarina:                                 02:22                    Well, the first one had the cover of Him.Jess:                                     02:27                    Okay. Him being one of the books that you have written.Sarina:                                 02:31                    Right. And then another one has a quote from The Year We Fell Down.Jess:                                     02:35                    Oh, that's cool. A quote, I love that.Sarina:                                 02:38                    And hers is in French because she helped me proofread the French edition. And then I have a lovely friend, Claudia, who has a tattoo of The True North titles.Jess:                                     02:49                    That's just so permanent. It's so permanent. I mean, number one, you gotta be a super fan to get a tattoo of. Well the other thing is you said that one of them has The True North novels, which means this is a tattoo that will expand over time, maybe.Sarina:                                 03:05                    Well, perhaps...Jess:                                     03:11                    What if you end up writing like 70 books in this series? It'll be like all the way up her arm or his arm.Sarina:                                 03:16                    Yeah, but I'll be dead from writing all those. So you know, we have bigger problems...But, so tell me about our guest.Jess:                                     03:24                    So our guest today is Jill Twiss and she is a writer on the show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. And she found someone who has a tattoo of a rabbit on them and that rabbit's name is Marlon Bundo. Do you know who Marlon Bundo is?Sarina:                                 03:41                    He's the bunny in her book.Jess:                                     03:43                    The bunny in her book. And we'll talk to her a little bit about that tattoo and what it was like to find out that she has landed a place of permanence on someone's body, which just to me, blows my mind. I can't even picture. It's just amazing.Sarina:                                 03:57                    You know what blows my mind?Jess:                                     03:58                    What's that?Sarina:                                 03:59                    If your first book in Amazon is a picture book with like 8 million reviews and went viral, like I'm so excited for this.Jess:                                     04:09                    I know, this is going to be great also because as you will find out when you listen to this interview, it's her first writing job.Sarina:                                 04:16                    That's amazing. Okay, I'm ready to have my mind blown.Jess:                                     04:20                    Alright, so with no further ado, here is my interview with Jill Twiss. I am here today with Jill Twiss. She is a senior writer at Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. She has a crazy, amazing story. She has Emmies, she has WGA awards, she has Peabody awards. There are some other things she does that I am so excited to talk about. I'm not going to burst the the surprise right off the bat. But Jill, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.Jill:                                       04:52                    Thank you so much for having me. I'm such a huge fan of your podcast and I'm so excited to be here.Jess:                                     04:58                    What was really funny was when I first asked you to be on the podcast, you were on Twitter, I was on Twitter, and we were following each other and I messaged you about being on the podcast and you were so excited. You're like, I'm a fan. And I'm like, I'm a fan. So we got to fan girl a little bit. It was very, very exciting.Jill:                                       05:14                    Well, I'm new-ish to book world. And so this podcast was sort of as I was thrown into it, how I learned about what I was supposed to be doing.Jess:                                     05:26                    Well, and you come at it from a really unconventional angle, which is part of what I want to talk about today. Speaking of books - so you have now two books. One is about to come out. But you have a book out that some of our audience may have heard of, which is called A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which is a children's book. And I wanna talk a little bit about how that book came to be. But I'm also going to link to a wonderful article that you wrote for Glamour about why you wrote this children's book since it seems in contrast with what you do day to day, which is to write for a late night audience. Which is a story that I love. Could you tell us a little bit about how Marlon Bundo came to be? Because he is a cool, cool character. Oh, and by the way, before I keep going, you tweeted recently that you saw someone with Marlon Bundo tattooed on them. How did that happen? How did you come across that?Jill:                                       06:28                    Okay, well, it was at my gym. I just happened to be there and I go to sort of a very fun, weird gym where we all know each other pretty well. And so we do a name game at the beginning of every class. And this woman heard me say, my name was Jill and she said, 'Are you Jill Twiss?' And then she held up her arm and she had a full Marlon Bundo tattoo. And she said she'd gotten them with her cousin. It was the craziest thing. I can't imagine ever even getting a tattoo of my own books, much less someone else's, but it could not be a bigger honor.Jess:                                     07:06                    Well, and I mentioned in the introduction to Sarina because she knows of three people that have tattoos of her books on them and one is a line from one of her books and two of them are just pictures of the books. And that blows my mind. That's a level of permanence and fandom that I can't even imagine. I can't even imagine. So tell us a little bit about this book, Marlon Bundo. Who in the heck is Marlon Bundo?Jill:                                       07:33                    Sure. Okay. So as you said at the beginning, I am a writer at Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. And I have been a writer there since the show started. So I am a pretty, you know, dark, angry, comedy writer kind of person.Jess:                                     07:51                    And I just realized that with you saying that, that I started in absolutely the wrong place. I don't have KJ here to kick me under the table to say, 'No, no, no. You're starting in the wrong place.' Which she does so brilliantly. Because am I correct - I heard somewhere that this is your first writing job, the Last Week Tonight. Is that correct?Jill:                                       08:11                    It was my first professional writing job, yes. I had done stand up comedy,Jess:                                     08:17                    I'm sorry, but we have to talk about how that happens because the idea that your very first job, professional writing gig out of the gate is with a late night television show. I guess we kind of have to start there before we can even talk about how Marlon Bundo came to be.Jill:                                       08:32                    Sure, it's a lovely story about women helping women, actually.Jess:                                     08:40                    Oh, we like those stories a lot.Jill:                                       08:42                    I don't want to mislead you, it wasn't an accident. I was very much trying to get a late night writing job. I had done standup comedy. I'd loved the comedy part, but the standing up in front of people made me sort of sick to my stomach all the time. And part of me was like, if you're not happier when people clap, maybe you're a writer, maybe this isn't for you. And I started to try to find writing jobs. And as everyone listening I'm sure knows, it's really hard. And the TV late night world is just really hard to break into because it's really hard to find out how those jobs are out there. And crazily I got an email one day from a woman named Nell Scovell, who I now know was the co-writer of Lean In. She wrote for The Simpsons. She wrote for David Letterman. I had never met her, or at the time heard of her, and she said, 'Have you ever wanted to write for late night?' And I said, 'Yeah, that's all I want. Who are you? What are you talking about?' And she said, 'I've been reading your Twitter. I think you'd be great at it. She said, you know, she had been a woman writing comedy for decades and sort of thought that was enough. You know that she was the woman in the writer's room, wasn't she doing enough for women? And she realized things weren't getting any better. So she wanted to start to find women. So in any case she said, I can't get you a job but I can get your packet read, I can get someone to read your stuff. So, literally within four months I had this job.Jess:                                     10:23                    You do realize that you're inadvertently ratifying David Sedaris's advice that he gave on our show (which is to never, well, and I'm sure you weren't like in a position of just sitting in your apartment waiting for opportunities to come to you) but his advice on our show was to never ask anything of anyone and just wait and be ready when the opportunities come to you.Jill:                                       10:47                    Well, if I go back one more step. I actually did ask something of someone because my job (I was a musical theater actress and I was a standardized test tutor) and I tutored a real smart kid whose mom worked for David Letterman. And when he did really well on the SAT I asked his mom if she would meet with me and if I could write a packet, and I ended up asking someone who I didn't really know to read over that packet. She was a writer for Conan and it turns out five years later Nell had gone to her and said, 'Do you know anybody that should be writing for TV?' And she said, 'I read this packet years ago. She should be writing for late night.' So I did ask for a little help in someone just reading something and giving advice. And she couldn't help me at the time, but when she could, she did.Jess:                                     11:42                    That is so cool. And you've used the word packet a couple of times, and that's a word I don't think we've ever heard on our show before. So I'm sure there are people out there saying, 'Oh my gosh, what's a packet? I don't have one. I need it. What is it?' \.Jill:                                       11:55                    Fair. In the late night world, and that's, you know, shows like The Daily Show or Jimmy Fallon show, all the Jimmy's shows, Jimmy Kimmel's show. Instead of doing what you do I think in narrative television, which is you write a spec script of like a whole show, they want packets and every show wants a different packet. So you might write a whole bunch of monologue jokes that happen at the beginning of Stephen Colbert's show. For a show like ours, you're going to write something similar to what is going to air on the show and they give you that assignment. So you have to find out about the packet. At the time I did it, we didn't have a show, so it was a lot looser. It was a little bit like, guess what John Oliver might do on a show that doesn't exist yet. I think specifically they asked to write a domestic and an international story. For something like The Daily Show, you would write maybe something similar to what happens in like a seven minute increment. They might tell you exactly what they want, they might not. Every late night show has a different packet, but you generally have to write it specifically for that show.Jess:                                     13:09                    So there's no just like writing some vague generalized packet and hoping that it lands right.Jill:                                       13:15                    No, although weirdly I would recommend that, just because there's no way to practice this but to do it. And so I had written packets for shows that I never, ever got to submit that were just me trying to figure out, you know, how do you do this? How do you write a packet for this show? I had seen (it sounds crazy now) but I used to read like every article about writing for late night and someone had said, 'You know, well, at this late night show, they write monologue jokes. They show up at 9:00 AM and then they write till noon.' And I was like, great, three hours, I can write monologue jokes for three hours every day. So that's what I did. You know, I just tried to find like, let's pretend I have this job and figure out how to do it until finally, and it took a long time, someone gave me the opportunity to show what I'd been working on all that time.Jess:                                     14:08                    Is there a magic format for a packet? Like there are certain tells for hacks. Like you know, if I try to send in a spec script in just the wrong format or in a way that doesn't adhere to the look of the standard spec script, someone's going to ding it right away cause they're going to say, 'Oh, this person doesn't have the slightest idea what they're doing.' Or, we had a children's book author come on and she said one dead giveaway of people who don't know what they're doing with children's books is that they send in the wrong format, or an odd number of pages, or they say, and here's the illustrator I need to have in order to write this book.Jill:                                       14:52                    I did all of those wrong things, by the way. Literally, all the things you just said I'm pretty sure I did, but whatever.Jess:                                     14:58                    So is there a magic format for a packet? Is there a program out there that you have to have that adheres to this magic format?Jill:                                       15:07                    Weirdly, no, like late night I think is the Wild West of everything. Every show is different. I can't tell you they're going to be great about telling you what they want, but I think some of the best shows will give you samples of what their scripts look like and you can do your best to copy them. The closest I can give you is that you have to put it in the language of the show. You know, the packet you write for John Oliver is not going to be the same packet you write for Trevor Noah. Even if you're writing on exactly the same topic. So the big thing that they're looking for is, 'Yeah, are you putting some of yourself in there because we're hiring you because of you, but also are you in the voice of the show? We're not interested in you changing the whole format of the show. I think some people like to come in and be like, you know, I have a new idea. Like what if Jimmy Fallon was in space the whole time? And it's like, well, you're not showing us that you can write the show that we have. This is really you showing you could start today and fit in with the show that's already there.Jess:                                     16:16                    I was a political speech writer for a while and part of the fun (for me anyway), was the challenge of writing in someone else's voice completely and not letting my voice dominate. So that's a really interesting balance. And are there times when you write scripts and then the person who for example, John Oliver, will put his own particular read on it so you don't have to be too worried about writing it exactly the same way he would say it?Jill:                                       16:41                    Oh yeah. I think of course he's going to put everything in his own words. I will say, because some of us have been there since the beginning, I've absolutely adapted to John's voice, but I think in some weird ways he's adapted to our voices, too. There are jokes he tells because I love them or because you know, someone else loves that voice and he (I think) has just a lot of skill at doing lots of different kinds of jokes. So I for sure have adopted his speech patterns, but I think he has in some ways altered his speech patterns for all of us, too.Jess:                                     17:20                    That's fascinating. Alright, so back to Marlon Bundo. So you're writing on a television show, which isn't the normal pattern of things that the next thing on your plate, affiliated with the show is a children's book. Will you tell us how that came to be?Jill:                                       17:37                    Sure, yes. We are not a children's show. We say a lot of words that you wouldn't say on children's shows.Jess:                                     17:45                    But you do have a lot of very cute, mascot looking creatures that come on the show.Jill:                                       17:54                    It's true, we do love that. So it happened that I was and am obsessed with a very real bunny named Marlon Bundo. Who is, if you don't know, the Vice President, Mike Pence's actual pet.Jess:                                     18:10                    Now is he still around? Bunnies don't have the longest lifespan. Is the real Marlon Bundo still around?Jill:                                       18:15                    To my knowledge, the real Marlon Bundo is still around. I don't want to start any conspiracy theories here. I believe that there is still a Marlon Bundo living.Jess:                                     18:29                    I will put it in the show notes if I find otherwise.Jill:                                       18:32                    Right. Yeah. Don't blame it on me. And Marlon Bundo had an Instagram and I loved this bunny. It's a very cute bunny. I am not, perhaps, the biggest fan of Mike Pence and some of his policies. And one day I saw an announcement that they were releasing a book about Marlon Bundo. And for some reason I got like weirdly territorial, as though I had any ownership of this bunny, which I obviously do not. And I was like, 'No, I want to write the book about Marlin Bundo.' So I pitched it, I just wrote an email that said no, we should write a book about Marlon Bundo. That, you know Mike Pence himself does not have the kindest record perhaps with same sex marriage. And so we decided to make Marlin Bundo a gay bunny.Jess:                                     19:27                    So you pitched it to the show, not necessarily to a literary agent first?Jill:                                       19:31                    Oh, not at all. No, that was in no way involved.Jess:                                     19:35                    Did you have a literary agent at that point?Jill:                                       19:37                    Nope, I did not. I also didn't have a TV agent, for whatever that's worth. No, I just pitched it to the show as like we should put out a book, which, you know, I pitch a thousand things to the show and most of them don't happen. But they said, 'Okay, yeah, let's do it.' And we had a quick meeting just to decide if it should be an actual children's book or if it should be one of those like parody books that's really for adults, but looks like a children's book. And I think we just decided why not? Like, why not write a kind book for kids about a thing that really matters to us.Jess:                                     20:20                    Now the writer in me and the person who now understands publishing timelines is freaking out. Because if you have just seen that a press release or some sort of release on the Twitter feed about the fact that they're going to come out with this book about Marlon Bundo, how on earth do you get a children's book out in time to have it still be relevant to the release of the other book? Because that was part of the deal when it was announced is that it was a competing book with the real Marlon Bundo's book. So how do you make those timelines work? Publishing moves slow, Jill.Jill:                                       20:55                    The great news is I didn't have to do any of it. I wrote the book, actually I didn't even... I went back to my office and we didn't even assign a book at that point. We were just kind of like pondering some ideas and I said, 'You know what, I'm just going to write something that way it'll be easier for them to be like, Oh no, not that. Now that we see that, we'll say, not that, we want something more like this.'Jess:                                     21:26                    You have a comfort with rejection of ideas that will be so refreshing to so many of our listeners because still - there's a pitch I put out there like two weeks ago and I haven't heard back and I am just feeling all sorts of rejection and yet now I can have Jill Twiss's 'almost everything I say gets rejected at some stage of the game' You're my new voice in my head. I love it.Jill:                                       21:52                    I mean, all of us probably write I would guess 30 to 50 jokes for every joke that goes on the show. So that's just the norm for sure. So I wrote this - just a thing just to be like, 'Hey, I don't know what about this?' And they said, 'Oh yeah, that. We'll just publish that.' So, it turned out to be like a day-long process. We changed literally a couple of words, had someone help us with things that you're talking about now. Like this is the number of pages or whatever. And I now realize that the publisher, Chronicle, was probably flipping out. But, not my problem. I didn't know. I had no idea. We found, again, what I now know is an extremely fast illustrator. We just picked the best person we found. Who was E.G. Keller, who is fantastic.Jess:                                     22:55                    I have to say, the illustrations are absolutely fantastic. I love the illustrations.Jill:                                       22:59                    When you were saying earlier you can't ever come in demanding an illustrator, that's exactly what I did for my next book. I didn't demand anything. That's not at all true. But after this (we're skipping ahead), I did get a literary agent, and she did sell us together. So my next two books are also with the same illustrator.Jess:                                     23:20                    And your next two books, including the one that is going to be coming out soon, which is called The Someone New...Jill:                                       23:26                    Oh, that one's out.Jess:                                     23:27                    Oh, that one's out now. Okay.Jill:                                       23:28                    That one was out last June so you can buy that one right now.Jess:                                     23:31                    Okay. So the two books you're talking about are in addition to the Marlon Bundo book and The Someone New?Jill:                                       23:37                    No, sorry, I'm saying this weird. So Marlon Bundo exists in the world of the show. My first book, that is entirely outside the show, was The Someone New and that is about welcoming someone new to your life, or your country, or your whatever.Jess:                                     23:57                    It is delightful, and beautiful, and sweet. I got a little choked up reading The Someone New. Well, mainly, I mean the town that I live in (I'm right near Burlington, Vermont) has been a sanctuary city. You know, there are lots of someone news in Burlington. Every single time I'm out and about in Burlington I run into people who are new to town and it had a really important place for me in terms of thinking about what it must be like to try to be new somewhere. And I love the book. I absolutely loved The Someone New.Jill:                                       24:36                    Thank you so much. I went to 11 schools in 12 years, so I was always the someone new. So when it came down to, Hey, you can actually write anything now, generally when I write for the show, I have very specific parameters. So when it came down to I had a literary agent, I could write a children's book on anything I wanted. What I wanted to write about are the things that really mattered to me right now, which is welcoming someone new to our country, but also just - kids are faced with new things every day. And new things are scary. You know, you don't know when you're a kid. And I really wanted to help that new kid in school...Jess:                                     25:23                    Which gets back to your Glamour article, you talk in that article about the fact that it can be really, really difficult to reach people who are adults, who can be really entrenched in their thinking, and really entrenched in their views. Whereas with kids, there seems to be more of an openness and (that's not easier to write to) but it's a welcome and it's the reason that I've been a teacher for so long is it is so wonderful to be able to reach someone when before they've become completely entrenched in their views one way or the other and have a conversation about things that are difficult.Jill:                                       25:59                    Yeah, I think that whatever side of the political spectrum you're on, one thing that we're all experiencing is just finding out that adults are tough sometimes. They're frustrating. It's hard to watch things happen and realize that people are just so set in their ways and they don't want to hear always what's true. They want to hear what they want to hear. And kids, everything's new, you know, and they are perfectly willing to learn a new fact, take it in, change their mind if it changes what's previously there. There's just such a wonderful openness and I have so much hope for the next generation and I need that hope right now.Jess:                                     26:48                    Yeah. There was a moment when I was teaching at my very first teaching gig, I was teaching middle school kids and there was a kid who came from a really, really remote rural town. You know, he came into my classroom and from the first day he would say things that I could tell were not his words. He was parroting things that he'd heard from other adults. And it was really interesting cause he was putting things out there to see what our reaction would be. And it led to some really, really interesting conversations and moments when he realized, 'Oh, I do believe that thing I said', or 'No, I don't believe that thing I said, but I'm just putting it out there because I've never had the opportunity to get feedback on the thoughts that I hear from the adults around me. So it's just really cool to be able to get inside of a kid's head and see how their thought process is when they're forming their identity, and their views, and their beliefs, and their ethics. It's really cool.Jill:                                       27:47                    I've really fallen in love with the book world, first of all. But the children's book world and just like the chance to go and read books to kids and sing songs with kids. I don't have kids, so this is new to me. Everything I've learned in the children's book world has been a shock as far as like what age kids read what kind of books, like all of that stuff. I'm learning at sort of double speed as I go through this. But it is just delightful to get to work with kids and see them and you get nice emails instead of mean emails, you get nice pictures of children and dogs with your books instead of like me and emails of people threatening to you know, hurt you.Jess:                                     28:33                    Well, and speaking of kids you do something that I just had never even thought of as a task. You write sentences for the Scripps Spelling Bee. How did that come about? And how is that a gig that you become aware of and get?Jill:                                       28:52                    Yeah. Well first of all, I'm obsessed with the spelling bee. I have been for years. So it was very much on our radar. And again, I would pitch it as a story for the show and we did do it on the show once as just a short, funny story in the show. Right around then, I hit this stage of my life that I would I highly recommend, which is just ask for things you want. I don't know. Maybe they'll say yes. I've never done that before. But we did that story about the spelling bee and then I went to our executive producer and I said, 'Do we have a contact there? Can I ask them if I can write for them?' And she was like, 'Why would you want to do that?' And I was like, 'Fine, not your problem. It's fine. And I literally just emailed the spelling bee, told them what I do and that I had worked on the piece for the show and I said, 'I know you must have comedy writers write sentences. Like, I've seen the sentences that show up there, can I be one of them?' And they said, 'Yes'. That was really that easy, which I know is not how life works. And I know I had many years of opportunities not coming like that. So, now that I have a little clout and a little something, I'm just asking for all the weird things that I want. My next goal, I'm just going to put this out in the world, I want to write for the Tony awards. So if you know anyone, if you could make it happen, let me know.Jess:                                     30:20                    Very cool. So wait, they give you the word and then you write the sentence to go with the word that helps? So when the kid says, 'Could you give me that word in a sentence?' you're writing that sentence?Jill:                                       30:31                    Yes. Not all of the sentences. They have like really great experts writing sort of I'll say 'not funny sentences'. But, yes. So they do that to make sure everything is grammatically exactly what it needs to be. It's really important. It's so much more important that the sentences be correct than that they be funny. But they have comedy writers that go through maybe a month before the B and write a certain number of comedy sentences for it. And then this year for the first time, I actually got to go to the spelling bee. And as it was on the air, we were up there writing sentences for words that were coming up because they could switch the order of the words, for anyone that saw it this year, everything went crazy because there were eight champions and so everything was sort of getting decided on the fly. So we write sentences there, too.Jess:                                     31:31                    Wow. I actually had read somewhere, I think it might've been at the Tony awards one year, that they were writing - it was the year that Neil Patrick Harris rapped at the end and they were writing the rap during the show as winners were announced. First of all, Neil Patrick Harris, all hail Neil Patrick Harris and his ability to learn that stuff and perform it with like 10 minutes to spare. But the television world always to me, you know, Shonda Rhimes talks about writing for television as laying tracks while you're on the train that's going to... Sorry, Shonda, I'm sure I said that terribly, but it has always petrified me because of the speed at which things need to happen. So I'm always amazed when I hear things like the script story, where you're actually under pressure writing stuff while the show is happening.Jill:                                       32:20                    I was nervous because our show is once a week. And I have a lot of people, I have a lot of oversight on Last Week Tonight. But I actually found it incredibly calming. There's something really nice about not being able to read over what you've done. I'm writing a play right now and it could not be more stressful because I just have infinite time to revise and do and if it's up to me I will just revise for the rest of my life and no one will ever read anything I've written. So there's something really calming about being there and being under time pressure and being like, well it's out there. It worked or it didn't work. Who knows?Jess:                                     33:00                    Now this play that you mentioned, I had read that you are working on a musical about the convention at Seneca Falls. Is that what you're talking about?Jill:                                       33:06                    I am. I think it is turning into not a musical. Primarily because 2020 is the Centennial of women getting the right to vote. So this is the year for this and it takes so long to get a musical out there. That's what I thought I was going to do. And I think it's just going to be a play either first or always.Jess:                                     33:32                    That is so cool. So you have in fact someone in the #AmWriting Facebook group very specifically this week asked about not just wanting to know like the big picture nuts and bolts of how we (KJ, Sarina, and I) divide our time, but they wanted to know the close view of what it looks like - the granular view of how you divide your time. So what does your weekly schedule sort of look like in your daily sort of writing routine?Jill:                                       34:04                    Right now I'm on hiatus, so that's different and I'm going to kind of throw that out. But generally during the season, we work Wednesday through Sunday. We tape on Sunday and we work (theoretically) from 10-6. But it's whatever it takes you to get your work done. I consider myself a slow writer and I will very often write till midnight, one in the morning, whatever, when I'm on a piece. But it's really just write till you get it done or for me it's write till the singular moment when it is due. Always, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter when I started, doesn't matter how much time I have, if it's due at 9:00 AM then at 8:59 AM I will be writing.Jess:                                     34:53                    I've talked a lot about the fact that my deadline was supposed to be like July 1st for the book I just finished and then we moved it to October 1st but there was a conversation about, well, should I maybe propose like if there's time, which there is, because I'm not coming out until 2021 should I propose December 1st? And I'm like, Hmm, I need the pressure. I need that sort of looming-I-can-make-it-but-I got-to-keep-my-butt-in-the-chair-in-order-to-make-it. Because the minute I've got a couple extra months, I'm like, 'Or I could wash the baseboards in the bathroom.'Jill:                                       35:29                    Okay. I never do that. Never.Jess:                                     35:31                    No, I need the pressure.Jill:                                       35:32                    No, I am a queen of making fake deadlines for myself. Because yes, there's things I do for work. It is really hard to motivate myself to write all day and then write something for myself at night. So I will commit to other people, generally. Even when I was writing these children's books before it got to the point where there was any kind of deadlines, I would just email my agent and say, 'I'm gonna have a book to you by Tuesday at 4.' And then I had to write a book.Jess:                                     36:06                    I do the exact same thing and I know it's going to bite me in the butt at some point because I don't need to do that. I'm imposing a deadline on myself, but that seems to work for me.Jill:                                       36:18                    I think that I can't write anything without them. I'm having someone come over later today. He doesn't know this, but it is literally for the purpose of I was like, 'Can we plan out the next few scenes in this play?' But actually he's not writing the next few scenes in the play I am, but it's so that I have to write them and that I have some kind of accountability because it's a play. No one's asking for it. Frankly, no one wants it. There's a zillion plays in the world. So, in order for me to do it I have to invent a world where I'm accountable when I'm not.Jess:                                     36:51                    Do you have a series of deadlines then? Like do you have short term deadlines for certain scenes or do you just have some like big glowing day on your calendar, which is 'Have this mofo first draft done'Jill:                                       37:01                    No, I have to do it scene by scene. It's mostly just me. I mean, I'm hoping to say to this person, 'I'm going to get you a scene every day for the rest of my hiatus.'Jess:                                     37:15                    I mean, it sounds like this person is kind of your accountability buddy, but we've talked about this before. I'll say to KJ or to Sarina, 'I'm going to have chapter six done by end of day on Friday, hold me to that.' And they'll ask me, they'll text me, and say, 'How you doing on chapter four? How's it going?'Jill:                                       37:35                    I mean for most of my life I did not have a writing job. So I spent a long time crafting ways to pretend I was a professional writer. I didn't have an agent, as I said I've never had a TV agent. I got a book agent, not after Marlon Bundo came out, but maybe a week before Marlon Bundo came out, and she didn't know about Marlon Bundo when she signed me.Jess:                                     38:05                    So you approached her? Or she approached you, obviously?Jill:                                       38:08                    Because Marlon Bundo didn't exist. It was a weird situation where I had an offer for a YA book that I thought I could write while I was writing the show. I don't know how I thought I could do this. And so I needed an agent to broker that deal and so I asked friends who their agents were and if they would talk to me. And I actually chose her because she was like, 'I don't think you should this deal.' And I didn't know anything else in the world, but I was like, 'Well, she wants to work with me and she obviously doesn't want my money cause she's telling me to turn down this deal and maybe not do it at all.' So I signed with her and then I had to call her a week later and be like, 'I wasn't allowed to tell you this, but I have a book coming out tomorrow.'Jess:                                     39:00                    Oh, you were embargoed on that...interesting.Jill:                                       39:02                    Yeah. No, my parents didn't know. Noone knew I had written a book. It was all a huge secret.Jess:                                     39:09                    Well, parents are one thing, but not being able to tell a potential agent, that's a whole other thing. That makes talking with that person like impossible.Jill:                                       39:18                    She happened to be a children's book agent. But by sheer luck, I sort of fell into that because I loved her. And then I told her that. And of course a week later she was like, 'What were you talking about writing? A YA novel, obviously. You're going to write some children's books.Jess:                                     39:39                    That is so excellent. I love it. So we are out of time, I could talk to you for so long, but I want to talk a little bit about, have you been reading anything recently that you like?Jill:                                       39:53                    Oh my God.Jess:                                     39:53                    Anything you can talk about? Any stuff that you've been reading and enjoying?Jill:                                       39:57                    I'm looking right next to my bed. So give me five seconds to look at the name of it. It's called The World Only Spins Forward. And it is an oral history. It's a book about how the play Angels in America got written and sort of the world behind it, and the politics that were going on, the AIDS crisis that was going on, all of that stuff that led to Tony Kushner writing Angels in America. And I think it's lovely.Jess:                                     40:28                    Okay, so I will be picking this up on the way home because my husband is a super fan. My husband is an HIV doc and uses Angels in America to talk about what politically was going on at the time and essentially he re-watches the movie every six months or so. So I will be picking them on the way home.Jill:                                       40:52                    It's necessary reading. And it's also just fascinating, so far, from a writing perspective, when you imagine a young Tony Cushner going out and just starting seven hours of writing a play. This gives you a little idea how that happens.Jess:                                     41:11                    No, it's two parts. It's a two part play. We're going to need seven hours for this thing. I mean, can you even imagine?Jill:                                       41:20                    It seems like he did not think he was doing that, but then it'll also talk about how he'll go to a cabin and just come back with 700 pages of what he wrote there (for the play). And then he was like, 'Yeah, this will be a two hour show.' It took a while for them to figure out that perhaps it was not going to be one night of theater.Jess:                                     41:40                    Perhaps. I actually was just talking to Sarina when we recorded the intro that I have been listening to a book by Kristan Higgins, who our listeners will recognize. I'm listening to a book called Good Luck With That, which is a really cool premise about these three friends who met at (and I know this is not the term we're supposed to use, but they use it in the book) that met at fat camp, you know, nutrition and health camp for girls kind of thing. And 20 years later, one of them dies as a result of her morbid obesity. But leaves behind a list of (and this is not a spoiler because that happens right at the beginning of the book), their wishlist, the things they they wanted to do once they were thin. And she said, 'I want you to promise you have to do these things now.'.Jill:                                       42:35                    Oh my gosh.Jess:                                     42:36                    You can't wait till you're thin, you got to do these things. And it's a wonderful premise. The characters are fantastic. You do get to hear from the woman who has died because you're reading along; it's three women and you're reading along with her diary even though she has died. And then the other two women trying to fulfill the promises that they made to do these things now and not wait for someday about losing weight. It's three really lovely characters and Kristan Higgins is a truly gifted storyteller. So she has these three really individual women and it's a wonderful story.Jill:                                       43:11                    Can you say the title one more time?Jess:                                     43:13                    Yeah, it's called Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins. And she's just absolutely lovely, her writing is wonderful. And it's a book that I didn't expect to fall in love with and now I'm like, 'Can I just go do some tasks or get in the car and drive around so that I can listen to it some more?' Which is always a plus for me, I love that. Are there audio books of Marlon Bundo and The Someone New?Jill:                                       43:43                    Oh my gosh. Is there ever an audio book of Marlon BUndo? The character of Marlon Bundo is voiced by Jim Parsons, who is a delight. Wesley is voiced by Jesse Tyler Ferguson. It's the best cast. I'm going to leave someone out so I'm not going to tell you all of them, but in it my voice shouts, 'Hooray.' So I'm a little bit in it, but it's wonderful and oh, I didn't say this, but I should say this. All the proceeds from Marlon Bundo go to the Trevor Project. Or all of our proceeds; meaning any money I would've made, any money the show would have made, any money our illustrator would have made, go to AIDS United and to the Trevor Project.Jess:                                     44:28                    I was just thinking about the Trevor Project yesterday. I did something really entertaining this year. I made a donation to the Trevor Project in the name of someone who would not want to be making a donation to the Trevor Project. And I specifically emailed them and this one other organization to say, 'Please, could you send a note to this person that I have made saying that, you know, I'm making this donation on behalf of you for the children under your care that really deserve to have fulfilled lives where they are seen and loved for who they are and not who someone else wants them to be.' And it was the best donation I've ever made in my whole entire life.Jill:                                       45:12                    I love it so much. I feel like Marlon Bundo was exactly that, on a slightly larger scale. It was a way to use the name of someone (who perhaps hasn't been kind to the LGBTQ community) and to make a lot of money for people that help those people.Jess:                                     45:35                    Now, do you still follow the real Marlon Bundo on Twitter?Jill:                                       45:39                    I absolutely do.Jess:                                     45:39                    Does he still have a Twitter feed? Oh, well I'm going to have to follow him as soon as we get off.Jill:                                       45:44                    It's absolutely worth it. And just to mention another organization cause we're doing it. With The Someone New we work together with K.I.N.D. (Kids In Need of Defense), which is an organization that helps kids at the border who are applying for asylum or, and gives them legal help. So, that's great. And I'm gonna throw out that in June I have another book coming out called Everyone Gets a Say that's about voting.Jess:                                     46:15                    Oh, I'm so excited. And we've been having a lot of debate in our house about what the voting age should be. There's a fantastic episode of the West Wing, actually, that I plan to make both of my boys watch where these kids come to the White House and they're trying to encourage the voting age to be lowered. They're trying to convince the White House to lower the voting age. And so we've had a very spirited conversation in our house about what the voting age should be. And actually it was reflected recently on Twitter. There was a whole thread that was going around about what various ages should be for various things. I happen to think that the voting age should be 16, because I think kids are smarter than we give them credit for. And they do have the ability to look at what's going on in our country and in the world and have a say in that.Jill:                                       47:01                    I don't know what I think. So I'm not going to state an opinion, but I do think voting on climate change bills should definitely be by people who are going to be around when they go into effect. I think if perhaps climate change isn't going to affect you because you're 89 years old, you shouldn't be the one making all the laws about it.Jess:                                     47:23                    Alright. So if people want to find out more about you and what you do, where would you send them?Jill:                                       47:28                    I have my name Jill Twiss, J-I L-L T-W-I-S-S is my Twitter handle, it's my Instagram handle, it's my website. So if you know that, you can find me in any capacity.Jess:                                     47:41                    Alright, so we've got A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. Go get it. It's fantastic. The Someone New. Go get that. It's fantastic. And what's the release date for the new book again?Jill:                                       47:50                    It is June 4th, I think. It's the first week in June and it's called Everyone Gets a Say.Jess:                                     47:58                    Go preorder it now so that everyone will get a say. I'm going to be pre-ordering it myself. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I am so grateful to you. This has been a fantastic conversation.Jill:                                       48:11                    I loved it. Thank you so much.Jess:                                     48:13                    I'm going to go off and work on my packet. Alright, thank you Jill. Bye-Bye. And until next week, everyone, keep your butts in the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


10 Jan 2020

Rank #11

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172: #BucketGoals

Big dreams, and how to achieve them. (Jess likes to be told she can do it. KJ prefers to be told she can't.)#AmReading (and watching) Other People's Houses (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780399587924) , Abbi WaxmanJess: The Butterfly Girl: A Novel (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062698162) , Rene DenfeldA Discovery of Witches (book one of the All Souls Trilogy), (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780143119685) Deborah Harkness  (and the miniseries)#FaveIndieBookstoreNorthshire Books (https://www.northshire.com/) , Manchester VT and Saratoga SpringsThis episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.Find more about Jess here (http://www.jessicalahey.com/) , and about KJ here (https://kjdellantonia.com/) .If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship (https://www.marginallypodcast.com/) . This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


16 Aug 2019

Rank #12

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158: #WhyStickers

Jess and KJ extemporize on the power of stickers - where the only thing that matters is getting into the work, and getting the words out. And some bonus advice to authors on what not to do.Kj here, with a confession: I've been lying to myselfLetting myself off the hook. Not keeping my butt in the chair and my head in the game.I mean, sure, I had lots of excuses. I've been traveling or doing intense farm stuff since April 12. That's almost a month with--count them--only two days of being entirely home without travel or a major, all-day farm commitment. So okay then. Some of those days I called it. I knew I wouldn't get anything done on my next book, and I didn't.Some of those days I had a reasonable plan. Open the file. Stay with the work. That's all.But SOME days... some days I futzed around. I kept moving the needle. I let myself quit because "I'm really not focusing" or "this isn't getting anywhere" and although I had time to do something, and plans to do something, I didn't manage to do anything.So here's the thing about goals, and getting your daily (or 5 days a week, or 6 days a week) sticker: the achievement needs to be hard, but do-able. Something that will pull you alll the way in and ask something of you. Something that will measurably move the dial.If your sticker goal doesn't demand that you say no to some things--no to lunch, maybe, or no to taking a walk on the nice day, or no to a child who wants but doesn't exactly NEED a ride somewhere--in order to say yes to the goal, then the goal isn't high enough. Because it's the saying no that makes you, as Steven Pressfield would say, a pro (https://stevenpressfield.com/2012/02/saying-no/) . It's the saying no that means you're saying yes to yourself as a serious person with work that needs to get done, whether there's anyone else waiting for that work or not.You're waiting.I'm waiting.So this is my declaration of re-intent. My "sticker" for the next 30 days (at a minimum) is 1000 words. No shortcuts, no lowered goals. SOME DAYS I MIGHT NOT GET A STICKER--but there will be no participation awards. No A-for-effort. It's sticker or nothing around here, baby. And that's #WhySticker.Other links in the episode: The Secret Library Podcast, episode 147 (https://www.secretlibrarypodcast.com/episodes/martine-fournier-watson-147) : Martine Fournier WatsonWhat happens when your editor asks you to change a major plot point?The famed 2-tier outline process (https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting) at Author Accelerator.#AmReadingChasing Cosby (https://www.nicoleweisenseeegan.com/chasingcosby) , Nicole Weisensee EganThe best novel KJ's read yet this year (drumroll please): There's a Word for That (https://sloanetanenauthor.com/books/theres-a-word-for-that/) , Sloane Tanen#FaveIndieBookstoreBook People Austin, TXThis episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.Find more about Jess here (http://www.jessicalahey.com/) , and about KJ here (https://kjdellantonia.com/) .If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship (https://www.marginallypodcast.com/) . This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


10 May 2019

Rank #13

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5: #AmConferencing, Writing it Down and Making Connections

...in which Jess and KJ go into the closet (excuse the squeaky door) and discuss the values of the writers conference, and the dangers of writing in your head. #amwriting #ampitching #amprocrastinating This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


6 May 2016

Rank #14

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Episode 184 #BeforeYouStartthatNonFictionProject

Every nonfiction book starts out as a glimmer of an idea. A topic. An area of interest or expertise. But you can’t just pitch a book about beekeeping, kids. You need to know a whole lot more. Is it a beekeeping memoir? A beekeeping how-to? A meditation about the relationship between bees and humanity?In this episode, we dish about how to answer those questions, because—spoiler—that’s exactly how Jess, who just finished the draft of her second nonfiction book, has been spending her time. Well, not thinking about beekeeping, or at least, I don’t think so. She’s pretty cagey about what, exactly, she’s researching—but that’s a good thing, because this episode is about the first steps that lead to an eventual proposal and, ultimately a book, no matter what the topic. Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, a preview of the #WritersTopFive that will be dropping into #AmWriting supporter inboxes on Monday, November 11, 2019: Top 5 Steps to Setting Up Your Author Presence on Amazon (Plus a Couple More for Extra Credit). Not joined that club yet? You’ll want to get on that. Support the podcast you love AND get weekly #WriterTopFives with actionable advice you can use for just $7 a month. As always, this episode (and every episode) will appear for all subscribers in your usual podcast listening places, totally free as the #AmWriting Podcast has always been. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it with the shownotes and a transcript every time there’s a new episode. To support the podcast and help it stay free, subscribe to our weekly #WritersTopFive email.LINKS FROM THE PODCASTThe Art of the Book Proposal: From Focused Idea to Finished Product, Eric MaiselThe Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, Betsy LernerModern Love Series on AmazonModern Love Column, New York Times#AmReading (Watching, Listening)Jess: Jess has been all in this week! Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire, How to Walk Away and the bridge story between those two novels, The Girl in the Plane, plus Happiness for Beginners, The Lost Husband, and Get Lucky.Also, Ali Wong’s Dear Girls, Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, and Sarina Bowen’s Moonlighter!Sarina: The Virgin Gift, Lauren Blakely#FaveIndieBookstoreOctavia Books, New Orleans.This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. AND—they’ve got a new program for new nonfiction projects! Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.The image in our podcast illustration is by William Iven on Unsplash.Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)Hello listeners! If you’re in with us every week, you’re what I like to call “people of the book.’ And some of us book people discover somewhere along the way that not only we writers, we’re people with a gift for encouraging other writers. For some of us, that comes out in small ways, but for others it’s a calling and an opportunity to build a career doing work you love. Our sponsor, Author Accelerator, provides book coaching to authors (like me) but also needs and trains book coaches. If that’s got your ears perked up, head to https://www.authoraccelerator.com and click on “become a book coach.” Is it recording?Jess00:01Now it's recording. Go ahead. KJ00:45This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don't remember what I was supposed to be doing. Jess00:49All right, let's start over. KJ00:51Awkward pause. I'm going to rustle some papers. Jess00:54Okay.KJ00:54Now one, two, three. Hey, I'm KJ Dell'Antonia and this is #AmWriting the podcast about all things writing - nonfiction, fiction, proposals, essays, pitches, and as we say each and every week. This is the podcast about sitting down and getting your work done. Jess01:22I'm Jess Lahey. I'm the author of the Gift of Failure and a completed manuscript for book two, The Addiction Innoculation. And you can find my stuff in the New York Times and the Atlantic and various other places. KJ01:35Carry on, Sarina.Sarina01:40Hi, I'm Sarina Bowen. I'm the author of 30 plus romance novels and my last one was called Moonlighter and it just hit the USA Today.Best Sellers List. KJ01:51 I am KJ Dell'Antonia, the author of How To Be a Happier Parent, the former editor of the Motherlode blog at the New York Times and the author of a forthcoming novel that you'll hear all about as it comes out next summer. And yeah, wows all around. It's been it's been a good week. I think things are going pretty well for all of us. Jess02:18All of us. I think so, too. I'm finally recovered from getting the last book done and it's amazing how much stuff a person can push off until after. And like after meant after November 1st and so now my inbox is full of things with like all different color flags stuck in it, like deal with this after November 1st, deal with this after November 1st. And it's amazing how much stuff I actually piled on to deal with after November 1st and it's November 1st and I'm dealing with it. Welcome to after, I'm in the after mode now. And it's crazy. It's really good though. It was really freeing to be able to say, 'Just later', but later is now here. So anyway, but Sarina the thing that I wanted to mention is a huge congratulations because this is a new book in a new series for you, right?Sarina03:13Yeah. It's a spinoff because that's how I like to start series by spinning them off from existing characters. But it's definitely something new. I hadn't written a suspense plot really before. And yeah, it was hard and I really enjoyed it and I thought readers would follow me there, but of course I really wasn't sure.KJ03:35And they did.Jess03:35You can never be sure, but readers are fickles and they did. And it's really, really good. I was actually on my list of books I read, even though KJ pointed out that no one's going to trust me when I say anything about either The Chicken Sisters or any of your books. But I did love it and I love the fact that you're willing to push yourself to try lots of different things. And I think I even texted you earlier about a couple of the things that you've done that have made you nervous. When you first think, 'Should I write this?' And then you write it. And I'm always amazed how a) brave you are to write about stuff like a pregnant protagonist, which sounds crazy in romance. I mean, you would think that would never work, and it does, and it's fantastic. And I just, I love the fact that you're willing to push yourself because it would be so easy to say, 'I'm just going to write about single, heterosexual, white people because that's sort of the comfort zone. And yet you don't, you write about all kinds of things and I think that's really cool. Sarina04:36Well, thank you. The truth is though if I only wrote about people like me, we'd have a lot of books about people who don't leave home very much. Jess05:03My suspense for today is if the leftover Halloween candy is still gonna be here when everybody gets home later on today. Yeah. Can we point out today is (the day we're recording) November 1st since I already blew it and mentioned that. So that means it's the first day of NaNoWriMo. Are we gonna talk at all about that reality?KJ05:32Sure, I will. But before we do, we do have a topic for today. We have a plan - today we're going to be talking - Jess, name it.Jess05:43We are going to be talking about new projects. Because during my recovery from finishing the last book, I had no intention to have a new idea, but I did. So we'll talk about that in just a minute.KJ05:58This is going to be like the how to start, what to do before you start, that kind of thing. But meanwhile, since some of us are starting... Jess06:04Specifically non nonfiction. So my thing today is going to be about what you do when suddenly you have an idea for a new nonfiction, which requires a lot of organization from day one, so that you don't get yourself in the weeds and off on the wrong foot. But let's talk about November 1st - NaNo. What's happening people?KJ06:25The timing actually turned out to be really good for me. So everybody knows I've been working on what we'll just call novel two for the sake of ignoring the one in the drawer. Oh my gosh, my mother. Apparently I gave her my first novel, which I wrote 15 years ago and I got a text from her recently, 'Do you remember Mud Season? I was just reading.' I was like, 'No, don't read that.' I was listening to a podcast with Grant Faulkner, who is the person who heads up NaNoWriMo right now, although he is not the founder. And he specifically and sort of narrowly described the goal, which I had forgotten, which is to write 50,000 words of a novel. And I thought, 'Oh, well, okay.' So I pulled out the words that I have already written of what we're calling book two. I tossed aside all the words that I wrote around various other outlines and concepts that sort of need massive reworking. This is just the chunk that I really have and it's 30,000 words. So you know what I need to have a book? 50,000 words. So, I started today, I'm shooting to write 50,000 words of my novel in November. It is not a cold draft, but I think we all make our own NaNo rules, but I'm sort of enjoying the fact that I'm really kind of hewing a little more closely to the NaNoWriMo rhythm than I thought I was going to be.Jess08:06I'm sure there are NaNo purists who are saying, 'Oh no, you must start something new on day one.' But we don't roll that way.Sarina08:14That was never the rules, sorry.Jess08:22I think NaNo is a great time to (as we said last time around) just to take a hold of the productivity that's in the air, the sort of writing Juju that's floating around in November and do with it what you will.KJ08:34So I already nailed my 1600, I believe I wrote 1618 today. I'm feeling good. Jess08:55So in November are your stickers the value for the words that you like? How are you stickering? For those of you who are new to the podcast, we have this thing we do call stickering. Sarina and KJ and I text each other the word sticker when we get our sticker for the day. And it is literally a sticker that goes into our calendar. In fact, Sarina gave me some llamas for this month, which was great timing because I didn't have any stickers for this month. And it is literally a sticker that is of your own definition. Right now (as we're gonna get into in a minute) mine are research stickers this month. But it can be anything you want. And it means, 'Yay me. I did it.'KJ09:36Yes, my stickers this month (which are coffee pot or coffee cups. Super cute little pile of stickers.) will be for 1612 words. Or, like if I decide, I may end up having to decide not to write on Thanksgiving cause we're having a family dinner somewhere that involves traveling. So I may up some word counts in order to allow for some days off. I think the thing that's going to be different for me - sometimes I just want to just want to get to my words. And so when I write things that I delete sometimes I just leave the words in the word count until I'm done writing. Not this time, because the goal is to actually finish this draft. The words have to be words. That kind of varies. Sometimes they can be outlining words or they can be pre-writing words or they can be other kinds of words. But this month, hear me now, they have to be actual wordsJess10:44And Sarina, what's happening with you?Sarina10:46Well, I have a book that needs 25,000 words, but they have to be perfect by the end of the month so I can't do NaNo. I have to finish this project, and then make it beautiful, and that's just how it is.KJ11:01Well, I'll be representing you.Jess11:04You still use stickers during that process though, right? Sarina11:07Yup, absolutely.Jess11:09And during that process, are your stickers for editing, for writing, do you change it up day to day, whatever your goals are?Sarina11:16Well, they'll be writing for 1200 words. And then if I run out of book, then I'll revisit.Jess11:24Okay, sounds good. So I guess this leads us into the announcement that I have to make, which is, I already said on the podcast that I was going to be working on that novel, which sounded great when we were talking about it. It really, really did. And then I spent a lot of time rereading what I had. And thinking about what I really wanted to do and thinking about what KJ had said about what do you write in your head? And I just don't love writing fiction. I just don't, it's not what gets me excited to sit down. And you know, when in On Writing, when Stephen King talks about the fact that he threw away the opening chapters of Carrie because it was really hard, that's not what this is. I really don't think I'm just saying I don't want to do it cause it's hard. It just doesn't feed me. It just doesn't get me excited and make me want to go to work every day. And frankly, what happened was, and I have to be super, super cagey about this because I haven't even talked with my agent about it, but I had an idea for the next book after the addiction book. And I am so excited, at least right now for this crazy, in-depth research phase. I've said this before, what Mary Roach, author of Guts and a bunch of other cool books, calls her three month research flail. Where she jumps into the research and figures out what her book is. And so that's what I'm doing. I'm starting a new proposal for a new nonfiction book and that's what our topic is going to be about today. So, sorry to pull the rug out from under my NaNo plans, but they changed.KJ13:05I think that's really cool. And I don't know about Sarina, but I personally had no plans to actually require you to write fiction. You're okay. You be you. Jess13:18And that book is just still sitting there. I still have an internal relationship with those characters and I don't know if it'll ever get written. But Jenny Nash, if you're listening, that's not what I'm working on this month. But frankly, whenever I get this excited about something new, I'm all over it. Our official topic for today is what to do when you have an idea for a nonfiction book and you're starting to wrap your brain around a topic and think about a proposal. So, the very first thing I did was I took the book proposal for the addiction book, which is the long form. I think we talked at one point about the fact that if you are going to go back to your same editor that you've had at a publisher with a new book idea, you may not necessarily have to write the mammoth (in my case, I think it was 70 or 80 page book proposal that includes everything from the marketing stuff, and comparable titles that are out there, and who you are) that's for a publisher that doesn't know anything about you necessarily. But with the addiction book (simply because it's a difficult topic and we weren't 100% sure that my editor was going to be fully on board) my agent and I went out with a full, finished book proposal to my editor so that if she didn't want it, we could go out to everybody, right away. It would be done, locked down, in perfect shape. We didn't have to do that, my editor wanted it. But I also found that while it's a ton of work, it is such a great process to have to go through with a book. And, KJ, as you know from working on the stuff with Jenny for The Chicken Sisters, you have to be able to tell people really quickly what your book is about. You have to hone your ideas about what the chapters are going to be about. And that whole process for me is really, really helpful. So, while it's maybe, possibly more than I need to do right now, it's really good for my thinking. I don't know how you feel about that in terms of when you do nonfiction book proposals or your outlines, I guess.Sarina15:35Yeah. Well, the thing is, if I were proposing even like a series of novels to an editor that I already knew, I don't think I'd even want to start the project if I hadn't done that. Like I can't imagine committing to something without that level of ... cause it's just so much work, it's like more than a year of your life. And I think I would want to do all of that. And in the end it would not be wasted.KJ16:04Well, we've talked about the risks of promising to write a book that isn't what you want to write. This prevents that. Jess16:12It also helps me gauge the competition on the market. You know, I have to go out there. I've already started buying books and trips to bookstores. In fact, I was just in Sacramento and I came across a bookstore there called Beers Books. And it is a combination new and used bookstore. And I went bonkers. My suitcase was full of books coming back from Sacramento. It was great. And so buying books is sort of the first part of that process for me, figuring out what's out there in the market. And so I might as well gather that information since that's a piece of the book proposal I'm going to have to put together anyway and realizing what's already out there. Am I competing with something else that's better? Or am I the best person? Why am I the right person to work on this thing? And the answer may come back that I'm not. And that's all valuable information. So yeah, I don't have any problem working on the book proposal in-depth before anyone sees it. KJ17:15So, step one...Jess17:16Step one for me. So I went back to that old book proposal that's in good shape and essentially renamed it, did a save as, went through, left the headers in, took out the text for the old book. And I don't even know what the title for this new book is, but I have a placeholder and now I've sort of focused my thinking by looking at the book proposal to know what do I need to think about? Okay, well I'm going to have to think about what the chapters might be. I'm going to have to think about the competing title stuff. So the book proposal itself gives me a really good way to do that. If you don't already have a book proposal for a previous book we have some suggestions that we'll put in the show notes and I can't come up with them right off the top of my head. But KJ, I know you have one of the books that we happen to love for nonfiction book proposals.KJ18:07I believe it's the Art of the Book Proposal. Yes, that'll be in the show notes. Incidentally, just to toss it out there, head over to amwritingpodcast.com and sign up and you'll get the show notes in your inbox every time. So anytime we say this you can just be like, 'Oh sure, those are in my inbox.' And you can pop in there and look and that would be very handy.Jess18:33That book is really helpful, too. As is Betsy Lerner's book, The Forest for the Trees, gives you sort of good ways to think about the hard questions. Am I the right person to write this? Is this something I want to spend the next couple of years of my life on? You know, that kind of stuff. So number one, start thinking in terms of an outline for the skeleton of the book proposal.KJ18:57Wait, just to go back, one of the fun things in The Art of the Book Proposal that I think we almost do without realizing it is sort of thinking about all the different possible approaches to a topic. And I wondered, are you doing that? So you know, there's this sort of, 'I could write a how to about this. I could write a memoir about this. I could write a big picture research book about this.' Is that part of it or was it super clear that if I'm going to tackle this topic it's going to be like this.Jess19:27It has not been super clear for a couple of reasons that I'll talk about later on. But the idea of, is this a Gift of Failure type book? And I also had a really narrow focus at first, but lots of conversations with my husband (who's my best sounding board for this kind of stuff) has broadened the focus a little bit. So trying to get at what this thing is...yeah, that book does a really good job of breaking that down and helping you look at all of the different possibilities that you may not have thought of yet. And the nice thing about also getting your hands on a lot of other books that might be in your comparable title section is that they probably do it lots of different ways, too, and makes you sort of say, 'Oh, look at how that person did it, that's really interesting, maybe I can borrow from that. Or I think I might avoid this way because I don't think it works as well.' So yeah, that's also part of the honing process for me. What is it going to look like? And that's been an ongoing process. So number one, look at the book proposal, come up with your ideas of approach, come up with your ideas of how you're going to have to think about it when you read the research. Number two, get the books that are the research. You know, if you can't afford to buy the books, go to the library. Interlibrary loan can be invaluable if you're near a university. That's been invaluable for me because a bigger library is always better. Simply because there could even be things that are out of print that are really helpful. And in my case there were two books that are out of print that have been really, really helpful in helping me shape my thinking on this. Number three sounds really simple. But for me this is always really, really a big deal. I made a new email folder in at my email app on my computer. (I use the mail app that's on my Apple computer.) And having a folder that has the subject of the book is really great because I bounce a lot of ideas off of my husband. I bounced a couple of ideas off of some people I know in this field. All of those emails go into that email folder so that if I'm ever looking for the emails having to do with this topic, they're all there. And in fact that's what I'm doing right now, with the addiction book, I'm going back through that folder and I am figuring out what I might have forgotten, I might have left out. So once you have your email folder, once you've got all your books, once you're working on the proposal stuff, I also create a new Scrivener doc. A new Scrivener doc for me just gets my brain in the right place, especially since with Scrivener you can create a new folder for each chapter. You can move them around. So Scrivener really helps me shape my thinking, it's been invaluable for me as a tool. And then honestly, I just start trying to think like an emerging expert in the topic. I start following people on Twitter that might be a part of this topic. I start looking for the big people in the field and wondering, 'Are these people who might someday want to blurb this book?' Just little things - we're talking about a book that if it even gets written isn't going to be out there for like three or four years, but you have to start (at least I do) putting myself in the headspace of someone who's trying to become an expert in this topic. And as you well know, Sarina, this means that I am going to over-research everything. I am going to do a deep dive into the history of the topic, but that for me is what gets me out of bed in the morning. And it's what changed my mind about what I'm working on this month. And it's just fun. It's so much fun. I think it's the reason I love journalism so much - is the idea that it's my job to suddenly become an expert in a topic, and then write about it, and translate it for someone who doesn't necessarily want to go and do all the research that I love doing. And that's just really fun for me. Sarina23:37Well, I'm intimidated on your behalf. Jess23:41It's so much fun. We should clarify for the listeners that we are without KJ. She lost power at her house, which is something that we actually battle with. Sarina and KJ both lost power this morning due to a windstorm. I'm still good at the moment, although it's very windy here. It sounds like trucks are roaring by my house, but we're just going to carry on without KJ. I think that's really about it for me. Right now it's all about headspace. It's all about immersing myself in the topic and being excited. And my poor husband is going to be hearing a lot about this topic. And that's fine cause it's actually a topic he's really interested in, too. So for us, that's fun. That's life in the geeky, Lahey household. And actually, believe it or not, my younger son (who is still at home with us) is interested in the topic, too. So it's led to some really interesting conversations and it's also been fun to watch him get excited about a book that he probably will not have any part in. In terms of showing up in the book, because he's definitely in Gift of Failure, and he's definitely in the addiction book. And I think he's just about done being a part of my work. And of course he's been in lots of New York Times articles. There are pictures of him in the New York Times, which he's cool with and he's fine with all that, but I think he's excited that I'm working on something that may not include him as a potential topic. So there we are. One thing that was also really fun and this sounds like a really nothing sort of to-do list task. But I cleaned my office. And for me I used to do that as part of the process, at the end of every single chapter I finished in the addiction book, I would clean up because things would just get disastrous in here. There'd be piles of books and piles of research. And it was a really cleansing experience to put the research away from let's say the chapter on peers and peer influence and move on to the chapter on education on prevention programs in schools. Because I would then put away all those books, put away all those articles, and take out a whole new stack of stuff. And it was sort of a mind cleansing thing. And so the same thing has happened. I still have all my research out for the addiction book because I'm deep into edits now. And actually speaking of which, I'm working on edits right now because I'm going to have a meeting with my editor on the 20th of November, in which I have to have my arms around all the edits. So all those papers and articles and everything are still all around me. It's just that I'm making space for the new books on the new topic. It has its own bookshelf, I have a bookshelf dedicated to this topic. It's still only fills one shelf, but I'm sure that will change with time. But, it's really fun. It's a mental shift and that mental shift is really fun and exciting. And yeah, I'm back to being excited to go to work every morning and having a vacation between the two was really good.Sarina26:49That's terrific. You just reminded me of that internet meme of the guy and the girl walking down the street holding hands and he's looking over his shoulder at the other hot girl. Cause that's how it feels when you have to finish up the last bits of one project, but your head is already looking at another one.Jess27:11This was a first for me, actually. But you do this all the time, where you're writing one book and editing the last. This is new for me, but I hadn't really even thought about that as that's something that you have to do all the time.Sarina27:25Yeah, I do. If you spread it out a little bit, it's actually kind of nice. Because then you can be super picky on one topic and sort of expansive on the other one.Jess27:35Oh, that's a really good way of thinking about it. Speaking of which (that meme about the guy looking back) I watched the new series Modern Love on Amazon. You know, adapted from the Modern Love columns from the New York Times and there is a shot that is a direct call out to that meme in one of the episodes. And by the way, the Modern Love adaptation for Amazon is fantastic, way better than I ever thought it would be. But it was so funny to see the shot and say, 'Wait a second, that's that meme right there. I can see it.'. Sarina28:08So I heard that you had a new bookstore for us. Jess28:13I do. Tt's a bookstore I had visited once in New Orleans and I saw Anya Kamenetz from NPR, the education editor at NPR, she had a book event there for her book that was coming out (this was years ago). And it's Octavia Books in New Orleans and they sold books for my recent event down in New Orleans. But it's a tremendous bookstore. Curation is fantastic, people are so nice. And it's a quaint bookstore in the middle of a lovely little neighborhood in New Orleans. So another one of those bookstores where you walk in and you just sort of feel at home. So can't recommend that one more heartily. But speaking of bookstores, have you been reading anything interesting?Sarina28:58I just read a really sexy novella that my friend Lauren Blakely finished.Jess29:09You don't see a lot of novellas these days.Sarina29:12Oh, because of the holidays?Jess29:14No, these days in general. Novellas are tricky. As you well know, you wrote one.Sarina29:18Yeah, novellas are not my chosen length. But this book, it's going to do amazing. She did an amazing job on it and it's called The Virgin Gift. And it isn't out yet, but this was one fun moment where I helped somebody with something when I wasn't expecting to. Lauren Blakely writes so many wonderful books all the time, without any difficulty. But she happened to ask me a question about plot, just that came up in conversation, and it was one of those moments when solving someone else's problem is just so much easier than solving your own. And I was so happy to come up with this tiny little idea that helped her finish her book because it's so satisfying to solve that kind of problem. And then you know, your own plot problem will just grate on you for days, and days, and days and then once in awhile you can mention it to another person and get the idea you need just just by accident. So that was super fun. And then this week I got to read it and see how it all turned out.Sarina30:31That's really cool. Being a part of someone's book from the beginning is always so exciting. It's like when I get to read your books and I realize, 'Oh wait, I remember hearing about that six months ago.' I love that. Jess30:42I have read so many books, mainly because I was on vacation after having finished my book and I've been flying a lot, which means audio books. So you people had been recommending Katherine Center's books. Specifically Things You Save In a Fire. And so I I downloaded Things You Save In a Fire and loved it. And then I very quickly downloaded How To Walk Away, Happiness for Beginners, and The Lost Husband. And I have gone through all of them and it's always interesting to read an author's work out of order because she's evolved as a writer, as we all do. Her Things You Save In a Fire is her newest, and Lost Husband is years ago, and I'm now listening to a book of hers called Get Lucky. And it's interesting to read her evolution as a writer and she's delightful. She's just delightful. She's good, the humor is fantastic, the romance is fantastic, the suspense is fantastic, the secrets, there's lots of secrets. It's just delightful stuff. Sarina31:56I can't believe that you're two books ahead of me now. I've only read two of those four and I'm going to do a little video about Things You Save In a Fire because I love it so much.Jess32:05Oh, good. So, Get this. I also listened to Ali Wong's book, Dear Girls, which is so raunchy and so funny. It's letters to her daughter about her life. And if you've ever watched Ali Wong's comedy, either Baby Cobra or the other one that I can't remember at the moment. You know, she's raunchy, she's dirty, she's hysterical. And Dear Girls does not disappoint. It's really, really funny. Although, how you write a book to your daughters that they can't possibly listen to until they're in their twenties, I just don't even know. And listening to still more Harlan Coben. But then I also listened to Ronan Farrow's Catch and Kill. Which was fascinating, really fascinating. And it was more than I thought it was going to be in terms of content. So anyway, it's been amazing reading. But thank you so much for the Katherine Center recommendation. Because she's not my normal turf reading wise and I have been sad every time I finished her books. And do we have time to really, really quickly mention the bridge thing? So on her website, you pointed out that she wrote a short story to bridge two of her novels. And have you read it yet? Sarina33:19I have not. So you can't spoil it. Jess33:21No, no, no I'm not going to spoil it.Sarina33:22But it is a genius idea. Jess33:26How clever is that? And here's what she does. There's stuff in that bridge story that I would have been like, 'Oh no, save that for the novels. That's the good stuff.' And she doesn't, that story stands on its own as a really lovely piece of writing that gets to own its own turf within the universe of those two novels. And so, I loved it. It was included at the end of the audio. She reads it actually, Katherine Center reads it, at the end of How To Walk Away, I think. And loved it. So good. And that idea is great. And her website, as we've been saying, is super colorful and wonderful and yeah, she's delightful. Sarina34:47Keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game. Until next week. Jess34:53This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


8 Nov 2019

Rank #15

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36: #OrganizedWriter 1

...in which Jess and KJ begin a deep dive into keeping your many projects organized. It all starts with comprehensive back-up SOPs, but they also have suggestions on keeping track of everything from emails to to paper files to social media. Plus, the trouble with raising goats. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


6 Jan 2017

Rank #16

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10: #WriteNow, Feed Your Writing, with Reading, Bouncy Balls and Silence

...in which KJ abandons her To-Do List, Jess commits to writing 1,000 words a day on her vacation; and the virtues of busying the body to free the mind. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


15 Jun 2016

Rank #17

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103: #DeepWork

...in which Jess and KJ share new inspiration and tips for digging in, muscling through those times when the writing gets hard. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


20 Apr 2018

Rank #18

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143: #AlwaysBeHustling

…in which successful freelancer Kimberly Moran describes how she has created a home and work life that feeds her writing, and how she's always hustling to find new opportunities. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


25 Jan 2019

Rank #19

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Episode 181 #NaWhateverWriMo

Maybe you’re drafting a novel, maybe you’re not. Either way, we vote for seizing on the community energy generated by NaNo and getting some work done.The magic of NaNoWriMo isn’t in the number of words or the length of time or even the month of November. It’s in the community seizing this time—when we could so easily heave a giant sigh and say oh, well, November, it’s practically December, might as well give up—and instead bestowing upon it this extra energy, turning it into a holiday of our very own. We’re all for writing a 50K word novel (and there’s much advice in this episode on prepping for just that) but we’re also in favor of creating your own National Whatever Write Month. Pick your poison, name your deadline and join us in taking back November. Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, a preview of the #WritersTopFive that will be dropping into #AmWriting supporter inboxes on Monday, October 21, 2019: Top 5 Ways to Tame the Internet Distraction Beast. Support the podcast you love AND get weekly #WriterTopFives with actionable advice you can use for just $7 a month.As always, this episode (and every episode) will appear for all subscribers in your usual podcast listening places, totally free as the #AmWriting Podcast has always been. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it with the shownotes and a transcript every time there’s a new episode.To support the podcast and help it stay free, subscribe to our weekly #WritersTopFive email.LINKS FROM THE PODCASTJunior NaNoWriMoJennie Nash method for finding your thru line and your roadmap for writing useful words (because we’ve all written our way to finding the story, and we don’t particularly recommend it): The Inside Outline Download (formerly known as the Two-Tier, but don’t worry, this is it.)Character development resources:Episode 180 #CharacterEnneagramRabbitHoleThe Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma, Angela Ackerman & Becca PuglisiTake Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing, Libbie Hawker FabulaDeck.comEpisode 75: #NovelPreparations#AmReading (Watching, Listening)KJ: The Lager Queen of Minnesota, J. Ryan StradalJess: Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, Peggy Orenstein Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, Madeline Levine#FaveIndieBookstorePrint: A Bookstore, Portland, Maine, which does not look like this in October but soon will. Sigh.This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.The image in our podcast illustration is by chmyphotography on Unsplash.KJ:                                        00:02                    Writing people, this episode of #AmWriting is about setting yourself up for NaNoWriMo success no matter what spin you’re putting on it. We love NaNoWriMo because it takes a month when it’s easy to slack off—hello, holiday season!—and turns it into a month when much of the writing community is settling in to push harder, whether it’s the classic draft your novel NaNo, or whether you’re creating a book proposal, editing an existing work, drafting a memoir or applying yourself fresh to anything else. If you’re going for classic write-a-draft-of-your-novel in a month NaNoWriMo, you’ll want to sign up for Author Accelerators’s free 7 day jump-start-your-book email series. Truly, the five exercises they send you, from a one-sentence logline to your back-of-the-book copy, and the advice on getting those done really helps to set you up for success. I go back to those exercises again and again to see what I’ve promised the reader, and what I’ve promised myself. Sign up at https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting. Is it recording?Jess:                                     01:16                    Now it's recording.KJ:                                        01:17                    Yay.Jess:                                     01:18                    Go ahead.KJ:                                        01:18                    This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don't remember what I was supposed to be doing.Jess:                                     01:23                    Alright, let's start over.KJ:                                        01:23                    Awkward pause, I'm going to rustle some papers.Jess:                                     01:26                    Okay.KJ:                                        01:27                    Now one, two, three. Hey, I'm KJ Dell'Antonia and this is #AmWriting. #AmWritingHashtag is our podcast, it is your podcast about writing all the things - fiction, nonfiction, proposals, emails, pitches, and in short, this is the podcast about sitting down and getting your work done.Jess:                                     01:57                    I'm Jess Lahey. I am one of your co-hosts. I'm the author of the Gift of Failure and a new book coming out in 2021 about preventing substance abuse in kids and just finishing up, packing up, and turning it into a package for my deadline. Yay.Sarina:                                 02:18                    And I'm Sarina Bowen, the author of 30-odd romance novels and the latest one is called Moonlighter.KJ:                                        02:25                    I am, as previously stated, KJ Dell'Antonia, author of How To Be a Happier Parent as well as a novel coming out in June of next year. Cannot wait to share a cover with everybody, but that is still a little bit away. And I want to remind everyone that if you want to hear a little bit more from us, you can sign up for our weekly emails in which we will basically shoot you out the podcast, along with all of the links, and a little bit of a transcript, and everything you could possibly need to know about every episode. So, you can sign up for that at amwritingpodcast.com.Jess:                                     03:06                    And the place where you find all the good things,KJ:                                        03:09                    All the good things.Jess:                                     03:11                    What are we talking about today?KJ:                                        03:12                    Oh, we are talking about like the super obvious, elephant in the room topic for all writers in October, which is are you doing NaNoWriMo? And if so, how?Jess:                                     03:24                    And what?KJ:                                        03:26                    Yeah, and what? Exactly. So you guys know I love NaNo, but I've only managed to do it, like straight up NaNo once, which was in 2017 and it's actually eventually the draft that turned into the novel that's coming out next year. So, every other year I've sort of taken November and that energy that is just afoot in the writing community and thrown my own style at it. Like, I did some variation of something or another for my How To Be a Happier Parent book. And this year, I'm figuring out, I'm drafting, so it's gonna be National Novel Writing Month for me. But it's not the whole novel, I mean I've already written part of it. It would be silly to abandon that. So, my topic for today for us is sort of Nah, whatever, WriMo. National whatever write month. Cause I think it's so cool. November is a month you could easily just toss, right? Cause it's November, holidays are on the way. There's no way you can do a lot of writing this month, right? And once you've tossed November, December just might as well, yeah, we'll just start again in January. And come on. If you do this right, if you let the community encourage you, by January, you could have a whole book or you can have nothing. Those are your choices, whole book or nothing.Jess:                                     04:50                    NaNoWriMo has always been a really sentimental time for me because this is something I did with my students from very early on when NaNoWriMo first started. And it was a process that I started before the month began and we would go through this whole process of why it's fun to let go, what are the parameters for this essay, and how does it need to look in all the various drafts, and just start to write. And some of my fondest memories of teaching are there was a morning when one of my students came in. It was like day two of NaNoWriMo and she came into school and she looked at me and her eyes were just huge and she said, 'I felt like I fell into a book. Like I was a part of it and I've never experienced that before.' And I think for kids, especially, we tend to tell them, 'You have to write, and here's your rubric, and it has to look like this, and don't forget that the topic statements have to support the thesis statement, blah, blah blah. And for students to see that first experience of them falling into a book and becoming a part of it, as they just sort of let it pour out of them - that's always been what November has been about for me. Whether it's experiencing it myself or just sort of checking in every once in awhile with the vibe, like through Twitter or everyone talking about it online. There's just a really cool vibe about November and NaNoWriMo. It's great, I really love it.KJ:                                        06:17                    Of course, ironically, one of the things we're about to tell listeners is don't just sit down and start writing.Jess:                                     06:23                    Yeah, and I'm talking about kids. I mean, we went through a whole planning process actually with the kids. NaNoWriMo, and I don't know if they still do it, but there's a junior version of it and they have a whole workbook that prepares kids for it. You actually plan your characters, there's worksheets, it's really well done. If it still exists, we'll put it in the show notes because it's a really great resource for kids. And of course, kids aren't writing 50,000 words. They're setting their own goal. And when we did it, there was also a community online where you could register your class and the kids would log their progress every day and they'd have these little meters, and sometimes they'd get into competitions with each other and they'd come in and they'd say, 'I saw that you logged another 3000 words yesterday. Yay, you.' It was a really great process that NaNoWriMo actually was pretty thoughtful about, in terms of preparing kids. So, no, it was not just sitting down and writing, even for my students.KJ:                                        07:18                    I'm pretty sure that's still there. Sarina, have you ever used NaNoWriMo to put together a book? I mean, it's write at your speed, right?Sarina:                                 07:25                    Yeah, I have actually. The first time I completed it was for a novel that is currently in a drawer. You know, this one really probably deserves to come out, but I've been a little busy. But the weird thing about this is that I wrote this piece of women's fiction and I was kind of down on women's fiction because my one attempt had failed, but I wrote this NaNo piece and I like it. But there was a couple of characters in there, like a father and a daughter who had been estranged for 17 years. And so on like December 4th, I was sitting in my child's violin class as one does, like not paying attention. And I thought, you know, that dad and that girl, that's a really good story. So that idea, sitting there after writing 50,000 words became my book The Accidentals.Jess:                                     08:25                    One of my favorite books of yours. I love that book. I love that relationship. I love those characters.Sarina:                                 08:31                    Well, thank you. And so that's both a fun little story, but also a cautionary tale about maybe I could've gotten to that story first and understood its power if I had been a little more thoughtful about my NaNo project.KJ:                                        08:49                    That is kind of why we are doing this today, as opposed to on October 31st. Which is just to take some time and give a little thought to what can you do with this community push this month? You know, if you wanna write 1600 words, how can you make it a good 1600 words, that is a useful 1600 words. And on the other hand, if you wanna just use the energy, then I think what matters is just to try to just push yourself a little more. Cause that's kinda what NaNo is about. I mean, we have the thousand words a day that I'm doing right now. And I know, Sarina, you're trying to do 1200, but I'm just coming back at a thousand words strong. But 1600 is a lot more, so I feel like whatever project you're working on, or whatever thing you're working on, now's a really good time to take a look at it and go, 'Well, how can I just give that just a little bit more? How can I put together like a group of people that encourage me to just really get to something I can call an end in November?Jess:                                     10:06                    One thing I would love to do today, if it's at all possible, is to talk about - I'm in a weird position where I can't do a ton of advanced planning because I think this project finishing up this book and a work/vacation trip that I have right after it's due, will put me up into the end of the month. So I have a couple of possible things that I would be willing to share on the podcast that I could possibly work on. And I would love to sort of, if we have time today, to brainstorm what might make the most sense.KJ:                                        10:40                    Ooh, what should Jess do next? This is a great topic, I love this. Alright, well let's start there and then we'll talk about trying to set ourselves up right. What do you got?Jess:                                     10:54                    Me? The Jess stuff? Oh, I get to go first? Okay. So I have three things. I have a YA novel that I started a long time ago, actually during NaNoWriMo. I have a first chapter that I love and characters that I love, and some things I've thought about over time and Sarina's actually even read an early version of this chapter and I feel like I need to finish that book for myself. I feel like I need to see that through, it's a very sort of personal thing for me and I have no idea what will become of it. But I think that will be something I regret if I don't finish. So I have that. And then I also have these essays sitting there that are really important also that I would like to continue working on to some eventual possible essay collection. And then I have an idea for another research-based book and that I'm totally not ready to talk about yet, but that I'm sort of excited about doing the proposal process of working out my ideas for that proposal.KJ:                                        12:02                    And what you have also is the possibility of your edits dropping on you at any time and somewhat randomly.Jess:                                     12:09                    But here's the thing, right? Because of, and we've talked about this a little bit, my original publication date was going to be next fall. The election is pushing that until the spring of the following year. So my official pub date is now in spring of 2021 and edits - I have plenty of time. I think for my sanity on this project, I would like to get a little bit of mental distance from the book. And November might be a fantastic gap in which to do that. In fact, I heard from my editor that she might not even get to look at the rest of the book until the end of November, anyway. So that gives me a really nice buffer to put this book away and do what Stephen King talks about, which is that put it in a drawer until it starts to feel a little bit like an artifact and you can look at it a little more objectively.KJ:                                        13:02                    Oh, I love that you're going to get that time.Jess:                                     13:04                    I'm really excited about that, too. So I think it might be wise for me to not work on edits for just a little bit, just a short period of time, just enough time to work on something else and focus on just that one thing.KJ:                                        13:16                    Okay, we like this plan.Jess:                                     13:18                    So thoughts? So we have those three things. Book proposal, essays, novel. The problem with the novel thing is I don't have time to plan really before I'd have to start on that.Sarina:                                 13:32                    Well of course, I want you to write the novel. But it's not just that I really like YA novels and I enjoyed reading the beginning of it, but also because I honestly feel that novels lend themselves more constructively to this kind of attention.Jess:                                     13:52                    That's true.Sarina:                                 13:53                    I feel that essays may be a little more challenging. Although, you could use the ability to move from one to another in a helpful way, like if you get stuck on one essay. I can just picture myself flipping around a lot, though.Jess:                                     14:13                    Well, and you have heard me say that these essays, these sort of creative nonfiction, is where I really get a buzz. So I do really enjoy and get to do a deep dive in when I'm in. So, there's that.KJ:                                        14:24                    I guess a nice thing about NaNo for what we're talking about, is that the specific idea of NaNoWriMo is you've come out of the month with a 50,000 word novel draft. But it's not a daily goal. I described it as a daily goal, but if you're gonna get to 50,000 words, you've got to write 1,600, well 1200 words a day. But you don't have to. So you're saying, well I don't have time to plan. Well first of all, you've got some stuff written, so you've got some things in your head. You know, you could sit down and create an inside outline, you could do some work (even in the beginning of November) and maybe what you say is 'Well mine NaNo for this book, because I've already got X, is another 30,000 words plus the outline or...Jess:                                     15:20                    I'm glad you said that because I was thinking in terms of its old name (the name Jenny used to call that outline and I couldn't remember the new name, so I'm really glad you said it) I was actually thinking that spending deep time on that inside outline might be just the perfect way to start the month and then jump in. I don't know. I wish Jenny was on this. I thought about that. Oh, well. I will do some more thinking about it. I think I know what Jenny's answer would be - Jenny's answer would be spend very careful time on your inside outline before you willy nilly go off writing your novel, because as you found out, you can spend a lot of time and words and effort writing something that isn't right. And why do that if you can spend some time really organizing it on the front end first?KJ:                                        16:13                    Very true, but you also want to take advantage of the energy of having the project. So I think if you go into it with your defined version of what you want it to look like and if it is both realistic and yet a push, that's ideal.Sarina:                                 16:34                    You could also structure this in a way that accommodates your need to spend time doing some side writing for this book. So you could count those words, you could count the words that you spend on your outline. And when I outline and I was doing this last night, actually. I had a horrible long day of returning emails and so much conflict and just the worst Monday ever. And then I went to take a kid to a music lesson. I guess that's a theme today. And I was walking around the track at the Lebanon High School in the dark with my phone recording me talking about what had to happen next in this book. And I swear to God, I've written like seven outlines for this book already, but I really just needed to walk around that track in circles and say, 'And then this happens, and then this happens, and then that happens.' And then I got home and sort of blurted all of this outline stuff out of the application, which is called Otter.ai, into a document. And there were 2,000...KJ:                                        17:42                    Side note - supporters can find Otter.ai in an upcoming top five for writers, top five resources for dictating your work. Just throwing that out there.Sarina:                                 17:54                    Good footnote. But, so what sometimes happens when I get 2,000 words of outline is that when I'm tapping away, trying to give myself all of the good stuff that I've been thinking about, I accidentally write partial scenes.Jess:                                     18:12                    Oh, interesting.KJ:                                        18:13                    Yeah, or just lines. I totally agree with you. Cause I'll be like, 'And he says dah dah, dah. And she says dah, dah, dah, dah. And then they did...' And the dah, dah, dahs do make it into the book.Sarina:                                 18:27                    Yes. So there's no reason to sort of hold your outline hostage. You can be outlining and writing a novel in the same hour.Jess:                                     18:39                    You're so smart. No, I love this, this is really great. Especially since one of the byproducts of having kept my butt in the chair and being a good little writer doobie is that I am so remarkably out of shape. And so one of the tasks for me in November is taking more walks,, doing more hiking and getting out more. And so using something like my phone to dictate some and do what you're talking about actually would be a really good way to keep that going.KJ:                                        19:10                    I feel like this is practically a take back November movement. It's like y'all are claiming that November is the time when we're supposed to start holiday shopping, and marinating things, and putting pie dough in pie dough containers. November is actually, especially the first part, a really great time of when things tend to - like the fall routine tends to be set, whether it's your personal routine, or a work routine, or a family routine. And it tends to just kind of keep going. There aren't concerts and all of the early fall stuff has fallen away and so early November can be super productive. And then you take that energy and you just get up early, and ignore your whole family, and make it keep going through that beginning of the holidays.Jess:                                     20:12                    I do have to say that there won't be a lot of ignoring my family simply because I already did that. In this last month, my husband has been the grocery getter, the laundry doer, the dog taker carer of her. I mean, they've done everything and I have been so absent. And so one of the things I'm really looking forward to in November is spending more time with my family, getting to know my family again. It'll be lovely, they've grown since I saw them last. I think this is really helpful actually. I think I have sort of a mental game plan and I think it's the novel, and I think it's doing what Sarina's talking about with the outlining, and sort of thinking about scenes. I've changed some of the characters. Actually one of them I changed at Sarina's behest. I have a friendship that is now I think more of a romance and so that's a great idea. I'm happy with that. That sounds like a great plan for November.KJ:                                        21:10                    Well, so Sarina, I love that you're pulling together pieces for a new novel. It's kind of where I am, but I think you're more strongly there. So let's talk about what we can put together now in October, if we're on top of it or at the beginning of November, whatever works, to try to help make the words that we're going to write in November actual usable words instead of just the words that you have to sort of you know, vomit past in order to get to the real book.Sarina:                                 21:41                    Okay. Well, you know that we love to talk about resources. And at the top of our resources list, of course, we're gonna put Jennie Nash's outlining as one of our gold standard ways to get into writing a book. So that goes right at the top of the page.KJ:                                        21:59                    And we also have last week's discussion of character enneagrams. So if anybody missed that go back, because this is one of the ways we're thinking about our characters anew and afresh. So that's another good one. I'll put that on the list.Sarina:                                 22:16                    So this is an outline right here and Roman numeral one is the Jennie Nash method of understanding the point of your book and finding the through line so that the things that happen are connected by cause and effect. And then Roman numeral two is different kinds of character-based plotting. So enneagrams is a great resource, so that's letter a. Letter b is perhaps something like the emotional wounds thesaurus that we talk about sometimes; understanding what's driving your characters and what stuff in their icky background is scaring them. Which also leads into that book I talked about a couple episodes, which is now getting some play in our Facebook group. Like a couple people have said they're reading Take Off Your Pants, which is about character-based plot outlining. And then of course we have to reserve a Roman numeral at the bottom of this outline for classic plot, hero-based plotting. I've said before that it's slightly frustrating to me that that hero-based plotting is tricky in romance. But we do have a resource to share. We were sent this deck of cards called the Fabula Deck and I believe there's 28 of them at fabuladeck.com. Oh, it's 40 cards, sorry. And the first ones in the deck are my favorite. So it's the hero's steps. So card number one literally says 'The ordinary world. Who is the hero? What is his world like at the beginning?' And if you're plotting something like high fantasy or Star Wars or something with a defined hero going on a journey or an adventure, this would be just invaluable. And step number two is the call to action. And step number three is anxiety of the call. And so these cards are just like little roadmap.KJ:                                        24:25                    Is it a 40 step road map or is it like the first 10 cards are a roadmap and the next ones are...Sarina:                                 24:32                    Well there's 14 hero steps, which is a nice structure. And then there's character cards and some readers' steps. So there's a few different frameworks in the deck.KJ:                                        24:45                    Wait a minute. I need us to take a step back and just talk about like what is this deck? Is this like that spinny plot wheel that somebody came up with in you know, the 1800's or you know, spin the wheel and figure out what your next step a stranger arrives next at you. You know...Sarina:                                 25:04                    Well, I think it's more like a Joseph Campbell hero's journey. Actually on their website they use a cute example where they've plotted The Matrix movie against the first few cards in the deck. So, for the ordinary world card, the first step of the hero's journey, their sticky note says, 'A hacker doubts his reality.' And then card number two, which is the call to action, is that he follows the white rabbit and they kind of demonstrate the way that a lot of classical action stories that we've come to enjoy, follow this path in the way that they've laid it out.KJ:                                        25:53                    It's just a fun structural way I guess to have the cards out there. That's kind of a fun twist.Sarina:                                 26:01                    It is a fun twist.Jess:                                     26:02                    The whole Joseph Campbell thing is something my students used to love to do. It was one of our favorite things as we'd plot out like Star Wars, The Matrix, The Lion King according to all the different parts with the Joseph Campbell stuff. It's super fun. I love that stuff.KJ:                                        26:17                    Well isn't it funny how movies lend themselves so much better to this? It's because when you really look at a movie, they're so bald because all of the stuff that takes words in a novel comes into your brain in a different way in a movie. You know, the description of the person's office, and the description of what the person looks like, and the description of the person's movement. I mean when you peel all that back, you're left with post it notes that say things like, 'Hacker doubts his reality.' It's kind of amazing. And that's kind of going back to the Inside Outline, right? You're trying to get just those post it notes and for some reason it's so hard, like I feel like I need 20 post it notes.Jess:                                     27:04                    One of the things we would also do is the kids would come in and I would ask them to sort of just start shouting out some of their favorite books, or series, or whatever. And then the challenge would be, can we plot this book? You know, isn't this interesting how we can - and then they would get this look in their eye, like all of a sudden order had been established in their universe. And it was really sort of satisfying to be able to say, 'Oh my gosh, look at this. This thing has a trajectory with these common plot points or common milestones and we can do that with this book and we can do it with this book.' It's just this really nice moment when they go, 'Oh, look at the universe make sense all of a sudden.' It was great.KJ:                                        27:46                    So what else is in the cards? Like what is in the cards for us?Sarina:                                 27:53                    Well, you're going to have to flip through all of the hero's steps, but we get to a death, which does not need to be literal at a resurrection. And then the cards also give you a few other ways to look at your story, like how the reader is experiencing it. So I actually find the first half of the deck to be the most useful with the hero's journey. Because if you're going to cut out a card, or if you don't know what goes on that card, then it's a hole that you need to acknowledge and confront.KJ:                                        28:33                    Yeah. So if you're getting ready for your NaNo and you can lay out those cards or some version of those cards, you can find a lot of different sort of stories structure...it's kind of all over the place. It's that book The Idea that I've talked about before, there's lots of places to see the hero's journey stretched out, but it sounds like this is a super fun and practical way to do it. But anyway, if you don't have that death or the hero resists the journey kind of thing then yeah, you're missing something. There's something that people need to see happen that hasn't happened. And you can fulfill these expectations in a bazillion different ways, but if you don't fulfill them, you tend to sort of end up with people going, 'Wait a minute,' or maybe just not reading at all. I have a terrible time with it, though, I have to say. With the journey plotting. I do remember like writing down in huge letters (because you were talking about how something needs to die. Like that's kind of the - well, there's all kinds of names for that, the all is lost moment is my favorite) And I wrote in capital letters about my new book, that a person metaphorically dies. And I was like, 'Oh yeah, yeah, I found it.' But I don't know. I guess I just get caught up in all that stuff I was saying you don't even see in a movie. It's really hard to just lay down the post its and be like, 'This happens, and then this happens, and then this happens.' And it's harder than it thinks.Jess:                                     30:43                    Plenty of people would argue that if you're coming at it from the perspective of, I need to have all these plot points in my book, then you're going about it backwards and you're losing the freshness or the lifeblood of your novel. I mean, it's not like Virgil went out and said, 'Okay, gotta go get me some Joseph Campbell before I can write the Aeneid.'KJ:                                        31:06                    I'm really not Virgil and yeah, I get you, but I think that what at least tends to happen for me is that I have a giant messy thing in my head with all of those things in it. And what I am doing is more in and along the...gosh, can we just reference...we should just call this the podcast in which we reference Stephen King's On Writing constantly, but...Jess:                                     31:31                    Well, we do it all the time.KJ:                                        31:32                    Yeah, exactly. We'll just change the name of the podcast. No the part where you're excavating the dinosaur, right? So it's finding it, I'm digging for the post its. It's not like I'm artificially creating the post its. It's that they're buried in a pile of other paper, and magazine clippings, and pictures of people, and cards, and goodness knows what.KJ:                                        31:57                    So yeah, I have a hard time digging out the important post it I think is what I'm saying. So even going back and revising my book that's coming out next year, there were definitely moments of like, 'I know this thing is in here, like this turning point, but I really need to peel away the 16 descriptions of what the character is doing and whose hand she's holding or whatever in that minute so that people can see that.' So, you know, do it ahead of time and I guess we think we're hoping we'll be ahead of the game, right?Jess:                                     32:30                    Right.Sarina:                                 32:30                    Yeah. And I will acknowledge that some of my best books have the best dark moments for sure.Speaker 4:                          32:42                    So, even though I sort of fight it the way that you're describing, it's totally worthwhile to continue prodding yourself mercilessly...KJ:                                        32:53                    Until you find that really dark moment. Yeah.Sarina:                                 32:56                    Right. And I will say that, you know how I like to fill up the extra spots in my sticker calendar with quotes? I had one in September that I wrote down because I think it's true with a but at the end. So it's an E.L. Doctorow quote like this, '"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."KJ:                                        33:24                    But.Sarina:                                 33:25                    But, I acknowledge that the wisdom here (and he's right), but I have written a lot of novels just looking at the headlights and I'm squinty and tired. And I have really given myself the task of making 2020 the year of the outline because when I have recently had better outlines, I just feel better about my life.KJ:                                        33:50                    Well, and to kind of stretch poor E.L. Doctorow's metaphor out, you do need to know where you're going. I mean, yeah, it's like driving at night, but it's best to drive at night with the idea that you're going to get to Concord, as opposed to the thought that you're just going to go out and drive at night. So we're just trying to find a few points on the map here because goodness knows that I am perpetually lost.Sarina:                                 34:22                    The last time we drove at night we almost killed a bunny.KJ:                                        34:30                    Yeah. So you want to be careful with that stuff. It's dangerous, that's what I'm saying. Alright, well I think this is our way of saying let's all figure out what our own NaWhateverWriMo is, what's yours going to be Sarina? What's your goal for set for November? I know you've got one.Speaker 4:                          34:49                    Yeah. So my issue with actually ever doing NaNoWriMo is that I can't give wholly one month to one project reliably. So I'll be putting the finishing touches on one thing, and then getting back to some other things, so it's going to be a mixed bag. But I'm going to finish up a novel called Heartland in my True North series. And that is my big goal for the next five weeks for sure.KJ:                                        35:16                    Yeah, that's mine basically too. Except I think I should probably not call my novel Heartland cause that would just be weird. So I'm trying to finish up the novel that I am working on, which has lots, and lots, and lots of bits written but definitely needs a full....If I can get it done by the end of November, I better get it done by the end of November. It's exactly the kind of goal I'm talking about. It's a push. It's a stretch. But, I can do it. So that's going to be fun. And I probably do need 50,000 words, although we all know that my problem is more words, too many words, not too few words. In fact, today's goal was: 'Write the thousand words and then delete enough words to get the chapter I was working on back below 3000 words.' Cause that's my new rule, no chapters over 3000 words. So it was like, 'Yes to a thousand words. No, we're just going to delete, but it all counted.' We've given Jess her task.Jess:                                     36:22                    Yeah. Well, and it's going to be really weird jumping back into that because for awhile there I was on that I'm going to let myself pull a Diana Gabaldon, which apparently she does not always write in a linear fashion. She'll just write whatever strikes her when she picks up in the morning and then she'll have these random scenes that she then has to string together. So I did that for a while, so I don't even know what's in that file now. It's going to be so weird. It's going to be crazy.KJ:                                        36:53                    Alright. Well, anybody read anything worthy of note?Jess:                                     37:02                    Well, my thing though is (I'm going to do something really obnoxious and I'm going to apologize ahead of time) but I have these advanced copies of books that have been sitting on the side of my desk and I've been begging for extra time on them, but I've been asked to read them for various reasons. And so I'm taking them with me on vacation next week. And I started two of them. And I'm not only do I have (spoiler here) I have KJ's book and Sarina's next book on my iPad. I get to read those and I am so excited. I was saying, I feel like such a wealthy person going off with these two books on my iPad.KJ:                                        37:40                    Nobody is going to believe anything you say about either of these books. It's like having our mothers say they're wonderful.Jess:                                     37:48                    Absolutely not. But I also have three advanced copies by three authors I really like. And one of them is Peggy Orenstein. She wrote this fantastic book called Girls and Sex and her new book Boys and Sex is coming out in January. And I have been skimming through it and I already love it. I have an advanced copy of Madeline Levine's new book. Madeline Levine wrote Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well and her new book is called Ready Or Not, and I'm really excited to read that. And then I have another book by Christine Carter who wrote a book called The Sweet Spot. And I know her because we did a talk one time together in California about middle school and her new book is called The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction. And so I have five books to take on vacation with me that I'm excited to read. So this is going to be a big reading week for me. I'm so, so excited. And two of these, like I said, I've already started to dive into and I already like. But I haven't touched your book or Sarina's book, I'm keeping those for vacation.KJ:                                        38:57                    Well, I read one book. I don't have a stack, I only have one, but I really liked it. I finished The Lager Queen of Minnesota. Sarina, I bought this at Print when we were in Portland. Remember I was sort of wandering around with this stack of books and I was like, 'Yeah, I don't want any of these.' And then all of a sudden I was like, 'But I'm going to go back for that one. I've been eyeing that one.' The author is J. Ryan Stradal and I loved this book. It's really good. It's got a lot of different points of view and Oh, when we were talking about enneagram and I was like, 'Oh, there's this character in it that's a total, I think it was six, but I don't remember.' Anyway, lots of different points of view. A really good story, people that you really want to hear more from. Some of them you don't get to hear more from, because it's got all these points of view, but it comes full circle in this really cool, unexpected, yet satisfying way. And we all know that's exactly what you want. So this is definitely a recommend for me. It's also a lovely cross between literary and commercial. It sits right on that line that I like, which is smart, but commercial, I don't know where people have mentally filed it, but I enjoyed it. I also wanted to throw out there that I bought a book by Jojo Moyes (who is great, like you know Me Before You, and all that) so I bought a book that I was like, 'This looks different, and it feels different, and I bet this is one of her really early books.' And it was, it's The Peacock Emporium or something like that. And when I finally managed to look at the pub date, cause I just didn't when I bought it, it's 2004. And I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it because there's a really long windup before the pitch is all I'm saying. I'm like a quarter of the way through the book and I don't think these are even the main characters yet. But you can kind of see where she's going. And it's fun to read an earlier book by somebody who has gotten so good at it.Jess:                                     41:22                    This was a conversation I had with my kids last night. My son was listening to some music and he said, 'Oh my gosh, I've been listening to the same musician for the longest time and I can just see the trajectory.' And I said, 'That's what's really fun for me when I find an author I like, and then going back and reading some of their early works.' Or following someone like David Sedaris and seeing the bridge between some of his early stuff and then what we both agreed was his best book, which is Calypso (his most recent one). I love seeing that progress. It's really cool.KJ:                                        41:54                    Yeah, it's fun and it's just encouraging because I definitely feel like I'm growing from book to book and I know you guys do, too. So it's nice to see it. It's nice to see it out in the wild.Jess:                                     42:06                    Since you mentioned it, I want to make sure we give a proper shout out to Print. Those of you who have been listening for a long time might remember we were there once. We recorded our interview with Richard Russo at Print. It was not the quietest background ever, but it is a fantastic bookstore. And the reason we were there interviewing is that Richard Russo's daughter is the owner of Print Bookstore and it is a beautiful, wonderful, bookstore that I adore in Portland.KJ:                                        42:38                    So let's call that the Fave Indie Bookstore for the week. Alright, that's our week.Jess:                                     42:55                    We have a game plan, people. We have a game plan for November.KJ:                                        43:01                    Said it at the beginning of the episode, saying it again now. Head over to amwritingpodcast.com, sign up to get our emails. We also do supporter emails every week, top five for writers. There's one, I think it actually already rolled out, that's top five reasons to do your own NaNoWriMo, which has got some of what we talked in this episode and a bunch of other stuff cause I just wrote it. Yeah, so head over, sign up for that. You'll get emails whenever we drop an episode. You have the option of getting the top fives, which are fantastic. Some great stuff coming up. And that is it. And of course, as always, if you're having fun with us, review us, help other people to find us. We love that. We want to talk to as many of our fellow writers as we possibly can.Jess:                                     43:52                    And until next week, everyone, keep your button, the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at amwriting.substack.com/subscribe


18 Oct 2019

Rank #20