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The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience

Kelton Reid studies the habits, habitats, and brains of a wide spectrum of renowned writers to learn their secrets of productivity and creativity. Tune in each week to learn how great writers keep the ink flowing, the cursor moving, and avoid block. Explore our archives at writerfiles.fm to find interviews with notable guests that include bestselling authors John Scalzi (Old Mans War), Greg Iles (Natchez Burning), Jay McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City), Kevin Kelly (founder of WIRED magazine), Emma Donoghue (Oscar Nominee for Room), Maria Konnikova (The Confidence Game), Andy Weir (The Martian), Dan Buettner (The Blue Zones), Austin Kleon (Steal Like an Artist), Daniel Pink (When), and serial guest hosts: neuroscientist Michael Grybko, journalist Adam Skolnick, and short story writer Robert Bruce.

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‘The Writer’s Brain’ on Productivity vs. Creativity: Part One

Welcome back to another special edition of The Writer Files called “The Writer’s Brain,” a guest series with neuroscientist Michael Grybko, and in this episode we’ll dig into the inextricable link between productivity and creativity, and the Catch-22 so many writers face as a result.  This all began when Michael and I started a conversation about why we need to rethink our definition of productivity. As busyness, the cult of productivity, and multitasking seem to take over our lives, it’s easy to forget that the origins of the word productivity comes from the Latin, productivitas. Translation: creative power. Creativity — a topic Michael and I have discussed at length — is the beating heart of change, progress, and innovation, but our work-life scales are bending dangerously toward more busywork, distraction, inefficiency, and overall dissatisfaction. Truly scaling creativity requires productivity, so a balance must be struck between the two. Writing is a great example of this push and pull in the human brain. Luckily, research scientist Michael Grybko returned to the podcast to help me find some answers from the perspective of neuroscience. If you’ve missed previous episodes of The Writer’s Brain you can find them all in the show notes, in the archives at writerfiles.fm, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you tune in. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file Michael Grybko and I discuss: How neuroscience views the complex interplay between productivity and creativity Why writers often struggle to finish longer projects The great irony of the “10 year overnight success” How memory plays such a big part in productivity Why so many writing instructors prescribe “life experience” for great writing How always on, open concept workspaces can actually hinder both productivity and creativity And the close study of musicians, artists, and the pitfalls of mapping creativity in the brain The Show Notes: ‘The Writer’s Brain’ on Productivity vs. Creativity: Part Two The Best of 'The Writer's Brain' Part One: Creativity The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Two: Empathy The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Three: Storytelling The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Four: Writer’s Block The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Five: Fake News The Writer s Brain on Impostor Syndrome: Part One Productivity vs. Creativity, the Content Creator’s Catch-22 Rethink Your Definition of Productivity to Squash Uninspired Filler How to Outsmart Writer s Block with Neuroscience Mapping Creativity in the Brain: New research sheds some light on the neuroscience of improvising – The Atlantic This Is Your Brain on Writing Kelton Reid on Twitter Please click the donate button to support the podcast with a secure PayPal donation

37mins

9 Jan 2019

Rank #1

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21 Productivity Hacks from 21 Prolific Writers: Part One

In this special edition of the show I’ve invited back award-winning international journalist, author, and serial pundit, Adam Skolnick, to discuss a piece I wrote for Copyblogger.com last year titled, “21 Productivity Hacks from 21 Prolific Writers.” Over the last four years, I've been given the fantastic opportunity to interview a wide range of more than 70 prolific, renowned, and bestselling authors for The Writer Files series. As you may know, each interview digs into the habits, habitats, and brains of these writers, and I ask them all roughly the same set of questions on how they get words consistently onto the page. So, I sifted through the extensive series archives (including the written interviews) and cherry-picked 21 highlights on productivity from these writers for you. You’ll definitely notice some themes from their advice on keeping the ink flowing and the cursor moving. You can go to 21 Productivity Hacks from 21 Prolific Writers to follow along. Audio snippets have been excerpted here from the available podcast episodes. Guest host Adam Skolnick’s narrative nonfiction book, One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits — based on his award-winning New York Times sports reporting — is now available in paperback. In addition to his recent journalism, Adam has visited 45 countries and contributed to over 30 Lonely Planet guidebooks. He has written for ESPN.com, Men s Health, Outside, BBC, Playboy Magazine, and The NY Times, and has appeared on NPR. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file some highlights include: Seth Godin (bestselling author of 18 books) on the power of deadlines Elizabeth Gilbert (#1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love) on the inefficiency of perfectionism Joanna Penn (New York Times bestselling indie author and entrepreneur) on scheduling and writing every day Andy Weir (bestselling author of The Martian) on motivation And more great tips from Adam and I as we discuss all 21 productivity hacks   The Show Notes [AUDIO] 21 Productivity Hacks from 21 Prolific Writers: Part Two 21 Productivity Hacks from 21 Prolific Writers – Kelton Reid for Copyblogger More Writer Files in the Archives at Copyblogger Being Busy Is Killing Our Ability to Think Creatively – Derek Beres for Big Think When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing – Daniel Pink

46mins

10 Jul 2018

Rank #2

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Busting the Myth of the Starving Artist with Jeff Goins: Part One

The multiple bestselling author of five books, including his latest — Real Artists Don t Starve — Jeff Goins, returned for a special edition of the show to talk with me about “The New Renaissance,” his favorite books on creativity, and busting the commonly held beliefs of artists. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! In addition to being an entrepreneur and speaker, Jeff is a writing and creativity consultant, and his popular blog, Goins, Writer, offers free tips about the writing life. His podcast, The Portfolio Life, delves into many of the same topics via interviews with entrepreneurs and writers aimed squarely at helping listeners pursue work that matters. On Jeff’s last visit to the show in 2015, we talked about his bestselling book, The Art of Work, and how to think like a professional writer. His latest, Real Artists Don’t Starve, “… dismantles the myth that being creative is a hindrance to success …,” and bestselling author Daniel Pink said of the book, “Every entrepreneur, writer, and artist should read this book and take notes.” Writers, I think you’re going to like this one. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file Jeff Goins and I discuss: How the starving artist mindset is a choice not a condition Why now is the best time in history to do creative work How John Grisham overcame the odds and 40 rejections to become a bestselling author Why you don’t need to “go big or go home” The psychology of rule-breakers and creativity Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com Jeff Goins author page on Amazon Find bonus material for Real Artists Don’t Starve here How Bestselling Author Jeff Goins Writes: Part One How Bestselling Author Daniel Pink Writes How Bestselling Author Austin Kleon Writes: Part One GoinsWriter.com The Portfolio Life Podcast with Jeff Goins Jeff Goins on Medium Jeff Goins on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter

27mins

18 Jul 2017

Rank #3

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How the Bestselling Sci-Fi Author of ‘The Martian’ Andy Weir Writes

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian, Andy Weir, dropped by the show in 2015 to chat with me about his writing process in the days just prior to the release of the Oscar Nominated movie adaptation of his hit book, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! This is a replay of the entire interview I did with Andy in honor of the publication of his latest book — Artemis: A Novel — described as “… a near-future thriller — a heist story set on the moon.” Blake Crouch, the New York Times bestselling author of Dark Matter, said of the book “Weir has done the impossible he s topped The Martian …,” and Ernest Cline, New York Times bestselling author of Ready Player One, called it “Everything you could hope for in a follow-up … another smart, fun, fast-paced adventure that you won t be able to put down.” The author’s inspiring journey to #1 on the NY Times Best Sellers list with his first novel began as a humble series of blog posts that grew enough interest to demand self-publishing to Amazon. When The Martian’s popularity sky-rocketed, traditional publisher Random House called, and the rest is history. From software engineer to sci-fi phenom, Andy is a down-to-earth writer and self-described “space nerd,” who still answers all of his fan mail. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In this file Andy Weir and I discuss: How a science geek became a bestselling author One great trick for improving your dialogue Why your enthusiasm doesn’t determine the quality of your writing The creative power of a walk and a hot shower Mr. Weir’s unique relationship with NASA 3 tips and tricks to becoming an “actual” writer Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com Copyblogger s Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful program that helps writers attract better clients — and more of them. New students will be able to sign up for a limited time soon. Add your name to join the waitlist and to get all of the details when they re available. andyweirauthor.com Artemis: A Novel – Andy Weir The Martian: A Novel – Andy Weir How Bestselling Sci-fi Thriller Author Blake Crouch Writes: Part One Notes from Hugh Howey’s Editor “The surprising story of how Andy Weir’s self-published book ‘The Martian’ topped best seller lists and got a movie deal” Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach Andy Weir on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter

42mins

14 Nov 2017

Rank #4

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How to Crack the ‘Bestseller Code’ with Jodie Archer: Part One

Writer, literary scholar, publishing consultant, and co-author of the internationally acclaimed book The Bestseller Code, Jodie Archer, returns one year later to chat with me about the book’s runaway success, turning the algorithm into an innovative consulting service for writers, her own writer’s journey, and one very unexpected turn for the host of this show. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! Before getting her PhD from Stanford, Ms. Archer studied English at Cambridge, worked in journalism and TV, and was an acquisitions editor for Penguin UK publishing. At Stanford Jodie taught writing and researched both contemporary fiction and bestsellers. Upon completion of her doctoral work she was recruited by Apple where she was the lead in research on books. The Bestseller Code is based on Jodie’s doctoral research with professor Matthew Jockers (co-founder of the cutting edge Stanford Literary Lab), an algorithm they honed for four years and refined by text mining over 20,000 contemporary novels using around 300,000 data points. The Guardian predicted that the book would “… revolutionize the publishing industry,” because the technology could predict bestsellers 80% of the time, based on theme, plot, character, and many other signatures. The authors were, of course, hounded by writers from all over the world for help with their manuscripts. And finally — following their breakthrough research — Jodie and Matt have founded a unique book consulting service for authors, publishers, and agents, based on the algorithm in The Bestseller Code. Beginning December 1st, 2017, ArcherJockers.com will offer three tiers of service to authors: single manuscript analysis, series analysis, and VIP service. [This interview was recorded in anticipation of that date in mid-October.] If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file Jodie Archer and I discuss: How writers from around the world convinced the authors to do consulting services The innovation behind the anticipated Archer Jockers’ service for novelists How to find your bestselling moment with integrity The power of “good” press, great agents, and selling the international rights to your book Jodie’s own multi-genre writing projects How yours truly took a leap of faith and became a beta tester for the service (cliffhanger pending) Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com Copyblogger s Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful program that helps writers attract better clients — and more of them. New students will be able to sign up for a limited time soon. Add your name to join the waitlist and to get all of the details when they re available. How to Crack the ‘Bestseller Code’ with Jodie Archer & Matt Jockers: Part Two How the Author of The Bestseller Code Jodie Archer Writes: Part One JodieArcher.com The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel – Jodie Archer & Matt Jockers ArcherJockers.com Manuscript Consulting Services How ‘Sweetbitter’ Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part One Jodie Archer on Good Reads Jodie Archer on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter

39mins

23 Nov 2017

Rank #5

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How New York Times Bestselling Author of ‘The Bookseller’ Cynthia Swanson Writes

The award-winning literary suspense novelist and New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller, Cynthia Swanson, took a break before her upcoming book tour to chat with me about her new thriller, The Glass Forest, the writer-slash-designer s process and unique relationship with creativity, and how she finds her ideas. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! The bestselling author started out as a freelance marketing and technical writer before her debut novel, The Bookseller, became an Indie Next pick and winner of the 2016 WILLA Award for Historical Fiction. The book has been translated into over a dozen languages and was optioned for a film adaptation with Julia Roberts attached to star and produce. Cynthia’s latest psychological thriller The Glass Forest, has been described as “… a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.” The Library Journal said of the book, “… Swanson demonstrates her signature trait: a consistent, superbly executed sense of knife-edge disquiet…” and Publisher’s Weekly called it an “… intoxicating slow burn [that] builds to a conclusion rife with shocking reveals.” If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In this file Cynthia Swanson and I discuss: How she targeted the time periods for her historical novels Why you shouldn’t research while you write How a professional novelist migrated to Scrivener Why you need to intentionally goof around to beat procrastination Great quotes for defeating self-doubt Why you need to find your own writer’s community Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details. CynthiaSwansonAuthor.com The Glass Forest: A Novel – Cynthia Swanson The Bookseller: A Novel – Cynthia Swanson Cynthia Swanson, Author – Facebook Page Julia Roberts to Star in Adaptation of Cynthia Swanson s The Bookseller – Variety Cynthia Swanson on Instagram Cynthia Swanson on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter

36mins

6 Feb 2018

Rank #6

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How Bestselling Author Ryan Holiday Writes

Reformed “media manipulator,” proponent of stoic philosophy, expert marketer, and bestselling writer, Ryan Holiday, has accomplished more in ten years than most will in a lifetime. He spoke with Robert Bruce about how he does it … Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! Note: This episode contains a few phrases that some may find explicit. Ryan Holiday has written six bestselling books on topics as diverse as growth hacker marketing, practical stoicism, and the dark arts of the digital media landscape … and his next book — Perennial Seller — will be published in July. He ran marketing for American Apparel, one of the most notoriously successful brands in modern times, and now runs a thriving marketing shop of his own. The list of his accomplishments is a lot longer than that, but I think you get the idea. Oh, and did I mention he’s just 29 years old? Enjoy. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file Ryan Holiday and Robert Bruce discuss: How Ryan approaches the problem of procrastination Where he writes his books and essays How writers can compete against the recorded history of … everything Media Manipulation in the age of Trump His next book Perennial Seller, and why the long game is the only game Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details. Ryan Holiday Trust Me, I’m Lying Trust Me, I’m Lying Book Trailer Growth Hacker Marketing The Daily Stoic Perennial Seller Ryan Holiday on Twitter Robert Bruce on Twitter

41mins

13 Jun 2017

Rank #7

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How to Write a Novel in One Month with NaNoWriMo's Grant Faulkner

The author, podcaster, and Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo), Grant Faulkner, joined me this week to talk about the Fitbit for novelists, how to write a novel in a month (not just in November), why tracking your writing progress is a built-in reward system, and why you can't wait for inspiration to just get started. "No matter who you are, where you live, how old you are, or what your background is, your story matters." - Grant Faulkner Grant is a writer, speaker, and educator whose day job is to help run the non-profit, National Novel Writing Month, the world's largest writing event where every year 500,000 people commit to writing a novel in November, including 100,000 kids and teens via The Young Writers Program. And Grant reminded me that NaNoWriMo provides year-round "...structure, community, and encouragement to help [writers of all ages and backgrounds] find their voice, achieve [their] creative goals, and build new worlds." 2019 is the 20th anniversary of the "seat-of-your-pants" creative writing marathon, and "...thousands of NaNoWriMo novels have been published, including best-sellers like Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, Wool, and many others." Mr. Faulkner is the author of a book of essays on creativity titled Pep Talks for Writers, and his teen writing guide, Brave the Page, is forthcoming from Viking this August, 2019. Grant also hosts a weekly inspirational podcast on writing and publishing called Write-minded, and his writing has appeared in dozens of publications including The New York Times, Writer's Digest, and Poets & Writers. If you think you're ready to write a novel, stay tuned... This episode of The Writer Files is brought to you by the team at Author Accelerator. Author Accelerator book coaches give writers feedback, accountability, and support while you write, so you can get that your idea out of your head and onto the page. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In this file Grant Faulkner and I discussed: The magic of coffee and early morning writing sessions Why jumping in and writing your novel from word one to the end of your first draft without self-editing is so valuable How a goal and a deadline can help you give birth to your book Why writers fool themselves into thinking they've written more than they really have How "just getting started" can help you overcome the perils of procrastination Why the author preaches Robert Frost's mantra "No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." Show Notes: Author Accelerator National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo) The Young Writers Program Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo by Grant Faulkner [Amazon] Brave the Page by Grant Faulkner [Amazon] GrantFaulkner.com Write-minded Podcast Grant Faulkner on Instagram Grant Faulkner on Facebook Grant Faulkner on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter Please click the PayPal Donate button to support The Writer Files with a secure PayPal donation

31mins

9 Jul 2019

Rank #8

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How Hugo Award Winning Sci-Fi Author John Scalzi Writes: Part One

The Hugo winner and multiple New York Times bestselling science fiction author, John Scalzi, took a break from his whirlwind new book tour to chat with me about The Collapsing Empire, the timely importance of great storytelling, and what makes a writer truly great. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! His wildly popular debut novel, Old Man’s War, began as a serialized blog before attracting attention from an agent. Its 2006 publication earned him a Hugo nomination and multiple awards. Since then he’s written dozens of novels including New York Times bestsellers The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation, Redshirts (2013’s Hugo winner for Best Novel), and Lock In. His work has been translated into over 20 languages and multiple projects have been optioned for film and TV. It’s no surprise that the prolific author has been a professional writer since the early ’90s. In addition to his award-winning blog, “Whatever,” John has written: freelance journalism, novellas, short stories, a wide-range of non-fiction, video games, been a Creative Consultant for a hit TV series, and remains a Critic at Large for the LA Times. In 2015 the author signed a multi-million dollar deal with Tor Books for 13 titles over 10 years, and the first of those is The Collapsing Empire, a bestselling interstellar space opera that’s been described as “Game of Thrones meets Dune.” If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file John Scalzi and I discuss: How publishing is like giving birth The secret behind most overnight successes How a prolific sci-fi writer researches ideas On beating laziness, and the author’s daily ritual The writer’s greatest challenge Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress How Hugo Award Winning Sci-Fi Author John Scalzi Writes: Part Two Whatever – John Scalzi’s Hugo Award winning blog Announcing The Expanding Tour 2017! 24 Cities! Five Weeks! The Collapsing Empire – John Scalzi John Scalzi’s author page on Amazon John Scalzi, Science Fiction Writer, Signs $3.4 Million Deal for 13 Books – New York Times John Scalzi on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter The Transcript How Hugo Award Winning Sci-Fi Author John Scalzi Writes: Part One Voiceover: Rainmaker FM. Kelton Reid: Welcome back to The Writer Files. I am your host, Kelton Reid, here to take you on another tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of renowned writers. This week, the Hugo winner and multiple New York Times bestselling science fiction author, John Scalzi took a break from his whirlwind new book tour to chat with me about The Collapsing Empire, the timely importance of great storytelling, and what makes a writer truly great. His wildly popular debut novel, Old Man’s War, began as a serialized blog before attracting attention for an agent and editor. Its 2006 publication earned him a Hugo nomination and multiple awards. Now, since then, he’s written dozens of novel, including New York Times best sellers The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation, Redshirts. Also, Hugo winner, Lock In. His work has been translated into over 20 languages and multiple projects have been optioned for film and television, so it’s no surprise that the prolific author has been a professional writer since the early 90s. In addition to his award-winning blog, Whatever, John has written freelance journalism, novellas, short stories, a wide range of nonfiction, video games, been a creative consultant for a hit TV series, and remains a critic at large for the LA Times. In 2015, the author signed a multimillion dollar deal with Tor Books for 13 titles over 10 years and the first of those is The Collapsing Empire, a best-selling interstellar space opera hit that’s been described as Game of Thrones meets Dune. In part one of this file, John and I discuss how publishing is like giving birth, the secret behind most overnight successes, how a prolific sci-fi writer researches ideas, on beating laziness and the authors daily ritual, and the writer s greatest challenge. The Writer Files is brought to you by the all the new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for authors, bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those selling physical products, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. And if you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews as soon as they’re published. How Publishing is Like Giving Birth Kelton Reid: All right. We are rolling once again with an esteemed guest today, Mr. John Scalzi, the acclaimed, prolific, New York Times bestselling author, Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer and writer of dozens of novellas, short fiction, nonfiction, journalism. What don’t you do, John? John Scalzi: I don’t do windows. Kelton Reid: Oh, you don’t do windows, okay. Well, I’m very excited to have you on today. I understand that your new project, your new fantastic book, The Collapsing Empire, is doing quite well, so it must be an exciting time for you. John Scalzi: It’s wonderful, actually. It was one of those things where you put your baby out into the world and you want everyone to tell you you have a pretty baby, so we’ve learned that so far most people seem to like it. It’s shown up on a lot of bestseller lists. It’s sold more in its first week than any of my previous books and we just announced a television deal for it, so things are going great. Kelton Reid: That’s so cool. Yeah, I mean, it seems like things are working out for you in the writing department. You’ve also got this vastly popular blog. Are you still doing a column or editor-at-large for some reviews? John Scalzi: Yes. I’m still a critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times as well. Kelton Reid: Wow. To say that you’re busy, would be an understatement but I understand you’ve got a weekend off to kind of take a deep breath and take it all in. John Scalzi: Yes. The nice thing that my publisher Tor has learned is that I don’t mind going on the road for weeks at a time but they do have to send me home after about 10 days, otherwise I run out of clothes. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, to say that there’s some writing out there by you that listeners can find, obviously another understatement, because there’s so much out there to find. And probably would seem that the best way to connect with you would be the website and that’s Whatever.Scalzi.com, am I right? John Scalzi: That is correct. Kelton Reid: Okay, cool. And it looks like the tour, the expanding tour is yet expanding. You’ve got a lot more dates on there. I’m going to try to catch you in Boulder coming up later next month but I will point at that and the website, your Twitter, of course. You are a prolific, as we discussed earlier, a Tweeter. I hope I’m saying that correctly, so Twitter’s a good place to get news from you. So, maybe for listeners who kind of aren’t familiar with your fantastic journey from … I guess you’ve been a freelance journalist since the early 90s, it would seem. John Scalzi: Yeah. I started off my very first job out of college was as a film critic for a newspaper in California called The Fresno Bee and I did that for about five years and then I left there to go work for AOL where I was their in-house writer and editor. I did that for a couple of years. I’ve been freelance since 1998. I published my first nonfiction book in 2000 and the first novel in 2005. Kelton Reid: That is an amazing story to me, also, kind of your origins as a sci-fi bestselling novelist. The Old Man’s War, which won you quite a few awards and was acclaimed, Hugo nominated, was your first true novel, correct? John Scalzi: It was definitely the first one published. I had written a previous book called Agent to the Stars, which it did eventually get published but I wrote that one as a practice novel, meaning that I had never written one before, wanted to see if I could do it, so I wrote it. But Old Man’s War was the one that I intended to try to sell, and I would have if I hadn’t just been so lazy. What I ended up doing was I put it up on the website because I was like, “I could send it out, but then it would take so much time. I have people who will read it here on the website and that’ll be fine.” And I put it up, and we serialized it. I serialized it in 2002, a chapter a day during the month of December and then when it was done, I got an email from Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who was an editor at Tor Books at the time. He’s now associate publisher, and he said, “I know you’re committed to this whole electronic publishing thing, but I really like your book. Do you mind if I publish it too?” Kelton Reid: Amazing. John Scalzi: I was like, “Oh, fine, if you must.” The Secret Behind Most Overnight Successes Kelton Reid: Right. Well, since then you’ve had some successes, quite a few bestsellers under your belt, Hugo Award-winning. I mean, the list is just impressive. I’m looking at Red Shirts and Lock In, which is a more science based thriller and all the way now through the Old Man’s War series and now into this new universe, which is fantastic. I mean, you’re starting out with a bang and I understand, since then obviously, you’ve signed this massive deal with Tor Books in 2015 and man, you’re kind of hitting your stride, I guess? John Scalzi: What’s really nice about that contract, it was a 10 year contract in which I would write 13 books, 10 of them for the adult market and three that are going to be YA. One of the really nice things about that, aside from the immense vote of confidence that Tor was giving me was quite frankly, it means for the next 10 years, until I am in my mid-50s, that I don’t have to worry about whether or not the book I’m writing is going to sell. I have to worry about still making them good and readable and interesting, because Tor’s not going to publish just me writing 90,000 words of, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But so long as I hit my marks and do what I’m supposed to do, in terms of quality, I don’t have to worry about whether that effort is going to make it out into the eye of the public or that even if it does get out into the eye of the public, that it won’t be marketed and advertised and the people won’t find out about it. It’s an extraordinarily fortunate position to be in and a lot of it was based on, as you alluded to, the previous track record. And this is the thing about hitting one’s stride, is absolutely we’re at a point where things are really taking off, but it’s based on a decade s worth of work in the science fiction and fantasy field. It’s that same thing of scratch under overnight success and you will see years and years and years and years of work you didn’t even know was happening. How Literary Success is Not Always Easy to Transfer to the Screen Kelton Reid: Yeah. Yeah. Well, congratulations on the success of the book and I understand it’s the top selling sci-fi hardcover in the US at the moment. Lots of other good things going on, including that TV deal that you mentioned, so that’s exciting. Do you get to actually help … I know that you were actually a consultant in another sci-fi series for the Stargate universe, right? John Scalzi: Yes. I was creative consultant for Stargate Universe, so what that meant was they would send me the scripts and then I would tell them every single thing that they were doing wrong, which was actually really good, because the whole idea of it is you never want to throw out an audience member from what they’re doing, whether you’re writing a book or doing a TV series or a movie, you don’t want to give them the opportunity to go, “Wait. That’s not how that would work. That makes no sense whatsoever.” So my job was to help them get everybody watching through 60 minutes and over to the refrigerator before they would say, “Wait a minute. That shouldn’t have worked that way.” But, if we got you all the way through the episode, then you’re going to come back for the next one. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Cool. Well, The Collapsing Empire, which we keep mentioning, obviously has been called … It’s a interstellar space opera about an empire teetering on the brink of collapse. I know I’m not doing it justice at all, but I guess Booklist said, for fans of Game of Thrones and Dune. I mean, it’s been compared to all these different fantastic other things, but it’s really hard to sum up, but it’s really great. I mean, it’s a really fun reading. John Scalzi: Thank you. The way that I tell it to people is basically, imagine there is a way to get from one star system to another, faster than light, and it operates basically like a river or an ocean current and you can t control it, but you can ride it. So you build this empire basically around ports of call all along this great river in space, but what happens when, just like happens with river in the real world, that river changes its riverbed. And all of the sudden all the ports that you’ve created, all the civilization that relies on this thing, they are left away from that river. That’s basically what’s going on. It’s a question of, we have taken for granted, as we so often do, is certain natural features of the world in which we exist and we assume that they are always going to be that way. But in fact, nature and the universe isn’t actually interested in our wants, needs, or desires. It’s going to do what it’s going to do and when that happens, as it happens in this book, how do the people who are living in those cities, in those ports of calls and those star systems, how are they going to respond to that? The answer is, in the book, some people plan, some people panic, and some people deny. Again, strangely, like what happens in the real world. Kelton Reid: Well, pretty timely stuff, but yeah. It’s a cool book, so listeners should seek it out if they haven’t already found it. Yeah. That’ll be interesting also to see on the small screen. Hopefully it makes it to the big screen someday too. That’d be pretty cool. John Scalzi: The way that I tell people about that is, believe it will happen when you actually see it on the screen. Until then, it’s a nice idea. Kelton Reid: That’s right. That’s right, because you’ve had lots of … your stuff has been optioned for TV and film and you’ve worked on video games, all that stuff. I mean, you’ve worked in all these different mediums so you kind of know that, yeah, having something optioned, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will make it to the screen, but fingers crossed, right? John Scalzi: Yes, exactly. How a Prolific Sci-Fi Writer Researches Ideas Kelton Reid: Well, I would love to dig in your productivity, because you are a prolific, prolific writer. I imagine that you’re probably already sketching the next in the series for- John Scalzi: Yes. Absolutely. Kelton Reid: You still have this Hugo Award-winning blog. You’re constantly reaching out and letting people know what you’re up to, which is really cool. So how do you … I mean, I just want to know how you do it. How much time per day are you putting stuff in, like researching or reading kind of the input part of the creative process? John Scalzi: The funny thing is that, that part of it, the intake part, is just indistinguishable to anybody who is observing from the outside from farting around, right? Kelton Reid: Yeah. John Scalzi: I will be on the Internet just reading articles or reading Wikipedia or Encyclopaedia Britannica entries or just reading and tooling around and it looks like there’s nothing going on, but each of those things feeds into the ideas that can cultivate in your head. I’ve always been a reader. I’ve always been constantly with a book or a magazine or a newspaper. I used to joke that if someone wanted to assassinate me, they would put a bomb under a book on a coffee table because that’s where I would grab things. I go, “Look, there’s a book.” Off I go. It doesn’t look like work. It doesn’t look like my brain is working. It looks like what I’m doing is just sitting around reading, but in fact, all of that kind of goes into the pot. And it’s not just reading, watching TV. Obviously, Redshirts, which is a commentary about the poor starship extras that go down to the planet with Kirk and Spock and Scotty, and somebody has to die, and it’s not going to be Kirk and Spock and Scotty, because they have season long contracts. That was something that had been running around in my head for years and years. You’re always researching when you’re a writer. You’re always looking at things. You’re always observing things and any one part of it can be the thing that hooks you. So, in terms of that, I think a writer is never not on the job. You’re always processing information and ideas are always going to present themselves. So that aspect of it is, that’s just life, that’s a writer’s life. On Beating Laziness, and the Author s Daily Ritual Kelton Reid: For sure. You’re incubating stuff all the time for future projects and reference. So on a novel like The Collapsing Empire, then maybe just walk us through like a writing day. Crack your knuckles, brew a pot of coffee. How do you get to the desk and get going? John Scalzi: The good news is that the desk is like 10 steps away from where I sleep, so getting there is not the problem. I’ve had a home office in my house in Bradford, Ohio where literally every single novel that I’ve written, with the exception of Agents to the Stars, has been at least started and substantially worked upon. And for me, one of the things that I learned early is that I had to have a process. Now, as a background, I am a super lazy, slothful human being who doesn’t want to have to do anything more than he has to do, so having a process makes me feel resentful and angry. Like, How dare the world require me to structure my life in any sort of way? That wasn’t part of the deal. But, it turns out that if you are a lazy, slothful person like I am, you can spend hours and hours and hours being on Twitter or watching TV or doing something else and not actually getting any work done. So, the system that I use basically is pretty simple, which is between the hours of 8:00 am in the morning until noon, which are prime creative time because I’ve just woken up, I haven’t seen what’s going on in the world, and my daughter is off at school and my wife is off at work. Between those hours, I turn off the Internet. I turn off the phone and I write. I write for those four hours or until I reach about 2,000 words, which is kind of my daily quota, which is based on the fact that I used to be a journalist, so I’m used to writing quickly, and it’s a speedy and relatively clean copy. Kelton Reid: Yeah. John Scalzi: If I get to the 2,000 words before the end of the four hours, then I usually kind of find a reasonable stopping point and then quit for the day. And if I get to noon and I don’t have 2,000 words, that s basically telling me, “Well, your brain’s thinking about other stuff.” But, the point being that four hours a day of writing or 2,000 words a day of writing, is enough that I feel like I’m making good, substantial, useful progress, but at the same time, doesn’t make me feel like my brain is going to explode. When I started writing, years ago, I would write 8,000 words at a time and then I’d be like, “All right, now I’m going to take a week off and then I’ll write another 8,000 words,” and I found as I got older, I couldn’t do that anymore, just like you find in your 30s and 40s that you can t do the athletic things that you did in your 20s. No matter how much you want to try, your knees will give out one way or another. By the same sort of way, I wasn’t recovering as quickly from writing 8,000 words at a spot. I would, instead of taking three or four days to get back to it, I would take a week or two weeks and that became untenable, because as we know, 13 book contract and every book has to be in in 10 years. I’m on a rodent wheel and I do have to get them out, so I had to get a process where I got enough where I got done, but my brain still felt fresh enough that it could keep doing in the background all the plot thinking and character issues and everything else so that when it came to it the next day, I could get back on the wheel and keep going. So that’s my process, four hours a day, 2,000 words a day. And I should say that that is the ideal process. I for some reason or another, I actually do, was like, “Oh, well. I’ll just check to see what happened on Twitter.” Poof, I’m done for the day. Because, especially in the last year or so, I’m sure you know this, it’s become kind of an interesting place. Kelton Reid: A little distracting, we could say. John Scalzi: A little distracting. The world has caught up with Twitter in oh so many ways, or Facebook or my blog or checking my email. And it really does become a real issue, the whole idea of you have to work not to distract yourself, and especially these days where it feels like you need to be up on everything because the world could end today. It almost feels like just blocking off four hours where you’re not going to talk to the world, almost feels selfish and there’s no logic or rationality to it and it’s not just me. A lot of writers I know have just been, “I dread going on to the Internet, but I can t help it. I feel like I need… that there’s something I should be doing,” and Twitter always has been … makes a really good substitute for doing something. It’s like, “I’m going to write that 140 character tweet that’s really going to bring them down now.” So you have to be careful. You really have to say to yourself, “No. It’s okay to make the time to do the thing that I’m actually supposed to be doing with my life, which is creating.” How Music Can be an Inspiration as Well as a Distraction Kelton Reid: Yeah, for sure. Well, it seems to be working for you, this process. I think so much of your work is cinematic in scope. I kind of imagine you with headphones on listening to some sort of soundtrack music. Do you like to listen to music while you write or do you prefer quiet? John Scalzi: I usually prefer quiet because as a recurring theme in my life, I’m super easily distractible. When I was younger, I would be able to listen to music, which would be kind of white noise in the background, but these days, it’s harder for me to do. I will listen to music when I’m doing a lot of process stuff. For example, when I’m researching or answering emails or talking to people about stuff in an electronic way, I will put on music that I’m familiar with or music that doesn’t really distract me. For example, when I do the daily answer the whole wadge of email thing or put up a big idea piece on the blog, which are pieces that other authors write about their new books, I will put on standards from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, like Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, that sort of stuff because it’s like the great American soundtrack. You know all the songs, but at the same time, it’s very pleasant and helps what can be sort of a mechanical thing just go along in a very efficient way. I will listen to a lot of music as sort of intake doing creative stuff, like imagining, because I find that that can be helpful. I, one time, wrote a entire outline for a YA series that I was going to do for a publisher to the album Fast Times at Barrington High by The Academy Is… because it was … It was about 2008. It was what the kids were listening to those days, aside from the fact that I really liked the album itself, and also it kind of helped put me in the mind space of, “I’m 17 years old and the world’s going to end, how do I deal with it?” That can be really useful when you are trying to get yourself into a specific mindset, but when it comes down to actually sitting there and writing, I usually leave it aside, because otherwise my brain will spend all its time actually paying attention to the lyrics or some other aspect of the music and not focusing on the writing itself. The Writer s Greatest Challenge Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. All right. Well, here’s the million dollar question: Do you believe in writer s block or do you have any feeling about it at all? John Scalzi: My answer to that is I don’t believe in writer s block as in the inability to write anything. I do believe in the ability of writers to psych themselves out, and I can use myself as an example. The hardest thing for me to do is start a book. Once I start it, once I am chugging along, I can write super quickly. I can get through everything. I solve all my problems that I want to solve. But getting to the point where I start, where I actually sit down, I’m like, “All right. Now I actually am going to do this thing,” is something that again and again I’ve had a problem with, so I will check my email for the thousandth time. I will go on Twitter. I’ll do social media. I will run those errands that I was supposed to have done three months ago. Whatever it is, aside from actually starting the book, so in some ways, like I can write a book fairly quickly. Redshirts, which won the Hugo, from start to finish was five weeks, as an example, but I can spend an equal amount of time or more not starting a book. Like, I have this is the time that I’ve allocated, April, March, May, June. And I actually start writing somewhere in May because the rest of it, you know, you can make all the excuses you want. I’m letting it develop in my brain, or, There are other things that I need to do, or “Oh look, I have this piece that I need to write for the LA Times,” or whatever it is that can distract you from it. And I don’t think of that as writers block, because it’s not a question of me and the confidence of Will the words come? I know the words are going to come. But, for me, it is more of my usual but particular set of writing anxieties. And the way, again, to eventually get over that, for me, was again, just decide, “It’s time for you to say goodbye to the world. Go ahead and get along.” Now, with that said, I think it’s really important to say that every writer experience is an individual writing experience and I think, to some extent, the question, “Do you believe in writer s block?” can be, “I don’t believe in it for myself, but I believe it’s possible for others.” Because, I’m not in the head of other writers. Writers are, bless our hearts, we are so neurotic in so many different ways and the way that that neurosis can manifest can absolutely be the inability to write or the inability to write what we decide is actually worth reading or sharing with people. I think it’s easy for writers to be arrogant about other writers processes. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, “Well, I don’t have a problem with writer s block and I don’t see why any other writer should have a problem with writer s block,” and the response to that is, “Yeah, but you’re not that other writer.” There are lots of ways for writers to not write. My not writing tics are, fortunately, fairly benign. It’s just the, “Ugh. I got to start this thing. Ugh,” whereas other people are, “My electricity’s about to go out,” or, “I have to care for a parent with dementia,” or, “I have a special needs child,” or, “The world is blowing up and I’m gay or lesbian and trans and I thought I was safe and I’m no longer feel safe.” There are so many ways the world can intrude. There are so many ways for humans, not just writers, but humans to get off the track that allows them to do their work in the way they’re supposed to do it or the way that they feel that they should do it. In some ways, it’s a miracle we do anything at all, instead of just running around like our hair is on fire. So in that respect, it’s easy for me to say, “I don’t have writer s block,” but I am also you said it, New York Times Hugo Award-winning author with a contract that means that I don’t have to worry about being published for … or that I won’t be published for 10 years. It’s easy for me not to have writers block, and I would be foolish if I didn’t acknowledge that and that I am in a special position where the worst thing that I have to think about is how long it takes me to start. Kelton Reid: Some great, great thoughts there and I mean, all I can come back to is that it seems like now more than ever at any time in history, we do need these great stories, don’t we? We need great storytellers like yourself to help us through. Thanks so much for joining me for this half of a tour through the writer s process. If you enjoy The Writer Files podcast, please subscribe to the show and leave us a rating or a review on iTunes to help other writers find us. For more episodes or to just leave a comment or a question, you can drop by WriterFiles.FM. And you can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers. Talk to you next week.

32mins

11 Apr 2017

Rank #9

Podcast cover

How ‘Sweetbitter’ Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part One

The instant national bestselling author of the acclaimed debut novel Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler, stopped by the show to chat with me about her not-so-overnight success as a rising literary star. Ms. Danler signed a six-figure deal with Knopf for her first book, the coming-of-age story of a young woman transplanted into New York City’s upscale, cutthroat restaurant world. Bestselling author Jay McInerney called Sweetbitter “… a stunning debut novel, one that seems destined to help define a generation,” and the book has been compared to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Before returning to her love of writing, and earning an MFA in Fiction from The New School in NY, Ms. Danler spent much of her life working in the food and wine industry. Stephanie has also written essays for The Paris Review, Vogue, Literary Hub, and Travel + Leisure. Join us for this two-part interview, and if you’re a fan of the show, please subscribe in iTunes to automatically see new interviews, and help other writers find us. In Part One of the file Stephanie Danler and I discuss: Why You Should Write What You Know and Love The Unglamorous Yet Rewarding Work of Promoting a New Book Why Cultural Artifacts Are Great for Research An Author’s Careful Balance of Daily Beverage Consumption Why the Old Rules of Productivity Shouldn’t Apply to Writers Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes How ‘Sweetbitter’ Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part Two Sweetbitter: A novel – Stephanie Danler StephanieDanler.com with Links to Essays by Stephanie Danler One Writer on Loving and Letting Go of Her Drug-Dependent Father – Stephanie Danler for Vogue Stephanie Danler on Instagram Stephanie Danler on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter The Transcript How Sweetbitter Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part One Kelton Reid: The Writer Files is brought to you by StudioPress, the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins built on a the genesis framework. StudioPress delivers state of the art SEO tools, beautiful and fully responsive design, air-tight security, instant updates, and much more. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 177,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/studiopress right now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/studiopress. These are the Writer Files, a tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of working writers from online content creators to fictionists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and beyond. I’m your host, Kelton Reid, writer, podcaster, and media file. Each week we’ll discover how great writers keep the ink flowing, the cursor moving, and avoid writer’s block. The instant national best-selling author of the acclaimed debut novel Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler, stopped by the show to chat with me this week about her not so overnight success as a rising literary star. Ms. Danler signed a six-figure deal with Knopf for her first book, the coming of age story of a young woman transplanted into New York City’s upscale, cut-throat restaurant world. Best-selling author Jay McInerney called Sweetbitter a stunning debut novel, one that seems destined to help define a generation. The book has been compared to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Before returning to her love of writing and earning an MFA in fiction from the New School in New York, Ms. Danler spent much of her life working in the food and wine industry. Stephanie has also written essays for The Paris Review, Vogue, Literary Hub, and Travel + Leisure. Join us for this two-part interview, and if you’re a fan of the show, do click “subscribe” to automatically see new interviews and to help other writers find us. In part one of this file, Stephanie and I discuss why you should write what you know and love, the unglamorous yet rewarding work of promoting a new book, why cultural artifacts are great for research, an author’s careful balance of daily beverage consumption, and why the old rules of productivity shouldn’t apply to writers. We’re rolling with author Stephanie Danler. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to rap with us about your process. Stephanie Danler: Of course. Thank you for having me. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. I am a big fan of this new book, Sweetbitter. I have to say it’s my new favorite. I don’t say that very often. I know it might sound like maybe I say that to every author, but I loved and hated it. I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’ve waited tables for many, many years of my life, and it’s giving me flashbacks. Stephanie Danler: I hear that all the time. I hear the PTSD that people start to sweat a little bit, especially in some of the more intense service scenes, which I imagine are really boring for a lot of readers. They’re like, “I get it. She carries three plates. This is not that difficult.” But for people in the industry, that kind of crush and intensity of service, I still get PTSD, and I didn’t stop waiting tables that long ago. Kelton Reid: Yeah, it’s amazing that it’s been years for me as well, but I still kind of get those waiting tables dreams where I have a nightmare, which is totally kind of like a PTSD response. Of course, it’s a stress response, but it’s … Stephanie Danler: What’s yours? Everyone has a different one. Kelton Reid: Yeah, oh yeah. It’s like the restaurant fills up, and you’re the only server, and you can’t do anything right, and everyone’s speaking a different language. You just want to get one coffee to a table, and you can’t span this football field sized restaurant. How about that? Stephanie Danler: That’s a great one. Kelton Reid: What’s yours? Stephanie Danler: God, mine is so specific, and it’s that I go into the wine room to pull a bottle of wine, and none of the bottles have labels on them. They’re all just black. I’m digging through this endless pile of glass, and I’m sweating the whole time. Kelton Reid: Oh my. Yeah. Okay, cool. It’s definitely something that waiters get, but you waited tables in a very specific type of restaurant, like a fine dining place. The book is amazing, the language and the prose really, really captures that setting, so kudos on the success of the book. I understand it’s doing very well, getting a lot of great buzz. Stephanie Danler: Thank you. Yeah. Totally has surpassed any of my wildest expectations. I’m ready to go home now, but not quite yet. Kelton Reid: Are you still in New York City, or are you… Stephanie Danler: No. I just got back to LA where I am currently camped out. Technically this is home, but I’m still working for Sweetbitter, constantly. Why You Should Write What You Know and Love Kelton Reid: Okay, yeah. Cool, cool. That’s exciting. Maybe for listeners who aren’t familiar with your story, can you give us kind of a little bit of your origin from maybe just from waiting tables in New York City, or being a back waiter in New York City to best-selling novelist? Stephanie Danler: That is such a clean trajectory. I wish that it went like that. I moved to New York City at the same age as my protagonist in the novel. She moves when she’s 22 in 2006. That is in fact when I moved to the city and the age that I was. Unlike my protagonist, I’d been working in restaurants my entire life. I started when I was 15 years old, and I never had another job. I knew when I got to New York that I needed to find restaurant work quickly and that that was what would support me while I wrote because I did move to become a writer. I had just finished undergrad, and I had two parts of a very bad novel that I thought was going to be a great novel. I think the most autobiographical part of Sweetbitter is the experience of falling head over heels in love with an industry, and it giving you a life that is very full and that is not a means to an end, but is immensely gratifying in and of itself. That’s what I found when I got to New York. And so, after my first job, which was at a landmark restaurant that’s no longer there, Union Square Café. Danny Meyer’s first restaurant. After that, I went to wine school. I helped open wine stores. I was the beverage director for a small restaurant group. I was the general manager. I helped open new businesses. I was a food and wine professional and very attached to that identity. It wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I remembered why I had moved to New York City. At that point, I had this idea. I wanted to tell a coming of age novel that subverted the genre in a few ways. First by being about a woman, and second by being not about age 14 or age 18, but about this extended adolescence that we’re experiencing now in our 20s where we’re not married. We’re not supposed to have careers yet, and we have this period where we’re actually just supposed to be figuring out how to be. I married that with what I knew, which is 15 years in the restaurant industry. I had this expertise, and I had this world that was so rich. I went back to graduate school, and I was getting my MFA, and the first thing I wrote was the first sentence of Sweetbitter. Two years later I had the first draft finished. Kelton Reid: That’s cool. That’s really, really cool. Stephanie Danler: Yeah, and there was a lot of messy, awful stuff in the middle of that, so it wasn’t so clean. I do love that story, waitress turns into best-selling author. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. It’s a good one. Stephanie Danler: I just woke up one day, and poof, there was a book. Kelton Reid: I noticed that you quoted Sappho in the opening there. Is that where the title comes from? Stephanie Danler: Yeah. Sappho famously was the first writer to call love bittersweet, but there’s a more recent translation by the poet Anne Carson, in which she looks at the word in Greek and says, “No, it’s actually sweet bitter.” That’s also the order in which we experience love, the sweet first, and then the bitter. Kelton Reid: That’s cool. Stephanie Danler: I love Anne Carson, so I just went with that. Kelton Reid: Very cool. The world is so ripe for that subculture. I love how you’re kind of going through the palate, the flavors, the everything, the appetite of that world. It’s an amazing read, so kudos on that. Where else can we find your writing out there? I know you’ve written for some kind of bigger name publications. Have you done travel writing? Is that right? Stephanie Danler: Yeah, I do. I have two other types of writing going on. I occasionally, with much angst, write personal essays. It’s not my natural habitat, but I also have had a really great run with Travel + Leisure. I have an incredible editor there, Jesse Ashlock. We’ve done three pieces together now. I’ve always been travelling. It’s a huge part of my life, and it’s what I’ve spent all my money on, and what I always will spend all my money on. It has turned out that I get to write about it. It’s not always that glamorous, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Then the personal essays have found homes on The Paris Review website, Vogue, and Lit Hub, Literary Hub, all sites that I’m so honored to be on. The Vogue thing was insane. No one thinks they’re going to be in Vogue. It’s so weird. I’ve never even read Vogue. Kelton Reid: That’s crazy. Stephanie Danler: Again, I had a genius editor who pulled out this personal essay for me. I think I get more feedback about that essay which talks about drug addiction and developing boundaries with addicts. I get more feedback on that than anything I’ve written, including Sweetbitter. Kelton Reid: Wow. Yeah, all great stuff. I’ll link to those. You also have a personal website, which I’ll link to. That’s StephanieDanler.com. We’ll put that in the show notes for listeners also. What are you working on right now? Stephanie Danler: I am working on this podcast, and then I am working for Sweetbitter. I do have two essays that are close. Then there’s that dreaded second novel that Knopf is waiting for, which I will turn my attention to shortly, but I just got back from touring. I think I need a little bit of mental space. Kelton Reid: We will be right back after a very short break. Thanks so much for listening to the Writer Files. Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. Well, some would say that we produce incredible live events as an excuse to throw great parties, but that’s another story. We’ve got another one coming up this October in Denver. It’s called Digital Commerce Summit and it is entirely focused on giving you the smartest ways to create and sell digital products and services. You can find out more at Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit. We’ll be talking about Digital Commerce Summit in more detail as it gets closer. For now, I’d like to let a few attendees from our past events speak for us: Attendee 1: For me, it’s just hearing from the experts. This is my first industry event, so it’s awesome to learn new stuff and also get confirmation that we’re not doing it completely wrong where I work. Attendee 2: The best part of the conference for me is being able to mingle with people and realize that you have connections with everyone here. It feels like LinkedIn Live. I also love the parties after each day, being able to talk to the speakers, talk to other people who are here for the first time, people who have been here before. Attendee 3: I think the best part of the conference for me is understanding how I can service my customers a little more easily. Seeing all the different facets and components of various enterprises then helps them pick the best tools. Jerod Morris: Hey, we agree — one of the biggest reasons we host a conference every year is so that we can learn how to service our customers, people like you, more easily. Here are just a few more words from folks who have come to our past live events. Attendee 4: It’s really fun. I think it’s a great mix of beginner information and advanced information. I’m really learning a lot and having a lot of fun. Attendee 5: The conference is great, especially because it’s a single-track conference where you don’t get distracted by Which session should I go to? and, Am I missing something? Attendee 6: The training and everything, the speakers have been awesome, but I think the coolest aspect for me has been connecting with both people who are putting it on, and the other attendees. Jerod Morris: That’s it for now. There’s a lot more to come on Digital Commerce Summit, and I really hope to see you there in October. Again, to get all the details and the very best deal on tickets, head over to Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit. Why Cultural Artifacts Are Great for Research Kelton Reid: We’ll look forward to hearing more about that as it develops. I’d love to just kind of dig into your process a little bit and learn a little bit more about your creative and writing process. Stephanie Danler: Yeah. Kelton Reid: Let’s talk about productivity a little bit. When you were working on the book, how much time were you kind of putting into research? I know that you did a lot of personal research over those years as a server and industry worker. Did you find yourself doing a lot of research while you were writing the book? Stephanie Danler: It’s interesting. People ask me often whether I had to research the industry or the food and the wine. Those things were so second nature to me, but what I could not remember was 2006, probably because I was drunk and working at the restaurant, but also I was 22, and it was a decade ago. I keep notebooks, but my notebooks are, “I woke up sad today. I woke up happy today.” They’re useless. I found myself very grateful for my hoarding tendencies and all of these old New Yorkers and New York magazines, and a collection of old Gourmet magazines, which is now out of print, but was the most beautiful food magazine in the world. I have a storage unit full of these print magazines. All of the information is online, but what you don’t get is the ads and the feel of what was happening in 2006; what restaurants were opening, what menus looked like, what songs were popular. Those were so helpful in jogging my memory. Kelton Reid: That’s cool. Stephanie Danler: That counts as research, I think. An Author s Careful Balance of Daily Beverage Consumption Kelton Reid: For sure. Before you actually sit down to get going, do you have any pre-game rituals to kind of get you into the mood? Stephanie Danler: Yes. I’m big on beverages, like multiple, multiple beverages. There is usually a cup of coffee that is lukewarm and anyone else would think is disgusting, but I drink it all day. Then there’s tea, and there’s water. Then at some point, there’s a Campari soda. Then at some point, there’s a white wine. I think the beverages are twofold because you need to be hydrated while you write, right? Everyone knows that. But you get to get up from the desk every 20 to 30 minutes to refill something or fidget with something. I find that very valuable. Kelton Reid: Oh, for sure. Yeah, taking breaks is important. Staying caffeinated, also important, up to a point. Stephanie Danler: Yeah, such a delicate art with caffeination, being caffeinated. Caffeination, I made that up. Why the Old Rules of Productivity Shouldn t Apply to Writers Kelton Reid: When you’re working on a bigger piece, or even an essay, are you working on it every day? Are you scheduling or blocking out times or word counts? Stephanie Danler: I think that when I am lucky, I’m obsessed by a project enough that I’m working on it every day. I’m not a fantastic multi-tasker. I really do need to focus in on one project. I very rarely am juggling two pieces of writing at the same time. I do block off whole days. I find that I cannot dip in and dip out. Maybe that also goes back to being a bad multi-tasker. My social self and my writing self are so far away from each other. Like, even just to talk to you today, it means that I can’t write. I’m in a different head space. Maybe later today, if a shift occurs. I have to block off whole days. That means, no, I cannot go to lunch. No, I cannot go get a drink. No, I cannot work out. No, I cannot go to the market. You just really have to put strict boundaries around that time. I do. Kelton Reid: Yeah, so that gets you into the flow. It sounds like you’re working big stretches, in marathon stretches. Stephanie Danler: Yeah, that is how I work. Yeah. Kelton Reid: Cool. Do you find that you’re getting more stuff done in the mornings, or are you kind of just whatever time of day? Stephanie Danler: Yeah, mornings are hard, because I do get up early, and I read. I have a handwriting journal practice that I’ve had for my entire life, but really there are so many emails. There’s the business of life, and that always feels most pressing in the morning. I find that I have a productive period around 10am after that stuff has fallen away, or I have a better sense of my day. Then around 4pm, anything leading up to a meal, I am like, “I’ll write for two hours, and then I get to eat.” Kelton Reid: Yeah, absolutely. Do you like to work with headphones on, or are you somebody who prefers silence? Stephanie Danler: I like music. I have a hard time with music that has words, though. I think when you’re dealing with words, and I have worked in silence before and found it very productive, but it’s also a little frightening, especially if you’re working for ten hours with no noise. That is a little intense for me. There’s something about music where I feel like I’m in touch with the world still. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. I find it interesting, actually, that kind of in the restaurant on a busy night, there’s a sound that kind of a busy restaurant makes that’s almost like brown noise or something where all conversations just kind of melt into one thing. Then you’ve got that soundtrack underneath that’s like an ambient soundtrack or something like that. Do you have memories of some of those tracks that would come on at the restaurant during a service night? Stephanie Danler: Oh my God, of course. Don’t you? Kelton Reid: Yeah, totally. It’s really interesting. I’ve tried to make playlists that incorporate songs from different eras of different restaurants to kind of remember those times. Stephanie Danler: The last job I had was at a restaurant called Buvette, and “Slippin’ and a Slidin ” by Little Richard would come on at midnight when things were beginning to break apart, when people had gotten too drunk, and we got this late night rush that we weren’t expecting. Everyone’s so tired and hungry. I would always look at the bartender and just shake my head, because that song was like, “We’re doomed.” Kelton Reid: That’s awesome. When you hear it now, you kind of… Stephanie Danler: I have not listened to that song since I left that restaurant. Kelton Reid: You can’t. Stephanie Danler: No, I would never. Is Writer s Block a Thing? Kelton Reid: Gotcha, gotcha. Let’s hear your thoughts on writer’s block. Do you believe in it? Is it a thing? Have you ever experienced it? Stephanie Danler: Oh God, it’s like one of the most powerful myths about writing. Every writer is asked about it, and it’s been endlessly discussed, but what’s interesting … I don’t think writer’s block exists. I think that the way that we measure productivity is not applicable to writing. Usually, you have active time equal to your production to the amount of money you’re getting paid. None of those rules apply. This idea that you’re blocked makes an assumption that there is another way that you should be working, that there are goals that you have to hit. However, I have had the experience of having so much energy for a piece and diving into it, and running into literally a wall, a mental wall, and being like, “Oh, what is this doing here? I’m just going to bang my head against it, and I’m sure it will disappear.” Then finally saying, “I have to walk away.” That’s what I think of when I think of writer’s block, but it’s actually something else, which is some wiser, less egotistical self that is also me looking down and saying, “This isn’t working. Walk away.” That’s your instinct. That’s not really a block. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. I like that summation. Thanks so much for joining me for this half of a tour through the writer’s process. If you enjoy the Writer Files Podcast, please subscribe to the show and leave us a rating or review on iTunes to help other writers find us. For more episodes or to just leave a comment or a question, you can drop by WriterFiles.FM. You can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers. Talk to you next week.

24mins

8 Aug 2016

Rank #10

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‘The Writer’s Brain’ on Productivity vs. Creativity: Part Two

In Part Two of another special edition of The Writer Files called “The Writer’s Brain,” with guest host neuroscientist Michael Grybko, we’ll dig back into the inextricable link between productivity and creativity, and the Catch-22 so many writers face as a result. This all began when Michael and I started a conversation about why we need to rethink our definition of productivity. As busyness, the cult of productivity, and multitasking seem to take over our lives, it’s easy to forget that the origins of the word productivity comes from the Latin, productivitas. Translation: creative power. Creativity — a topic Michael and I have discussed at length — is the beating heart of change, progress, and innovation, but our work-life scales are bending dangerously toward more busywork, distraction, inefficiency, and overall dissatisfaction. Truly scaling creativity requires productivity, so a balance must be struck between the two. Writing is a great example of this push and pull in the human brain. Luckily, research scientist Michael Grybko returned to the podcast to help me find some answers from the perspective of neuroscience. If you missed the first half of this show you can find it right here. And If you’ve missed previous episodes of The Writer’s Brain you can find them all in the show notes, in the archives at writerfiles.fm, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you tune in. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part Two of this file Michael Grybko and I discuss: Why professional writers, musicians, and athletes all share similar brain activity How adrenaline, mind-wandering, dreams, and the default mode network affect productivity and creativity Einstein’s theory of “combinatory play” for greater productivity Why your brain’s ability to filter out irrelevant information is so important to creativity And tips for anyone “drowning in data and starved for wisdom” The Show Notes ‘The Writer’s Brain’ on Productivity vs. Creativity: Part One The Best of 'The Writer's Brain' Part One: Creativity The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Two: Empathy The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Three: Storytelling The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Four: Writer’s Block The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part Five: Fake News The Writer s Brain on Impostor Syndrome: Part One Productivity vs. Creativity, the Content Creator’s Catch-22 Rethink Your Definition of Productivity to Squash Uninspired Filler How to Outsmart Writer s Block with Neuroscience Mapping Creativity in the Brain: New research sheds some light on the neuroscience of improvising – The Atlantic This Is Your Brain on Writing Kelton Reid on Twitter Please click the donate button to support the podcast with a secure PayPal donation

31mins

16 Jan 2019

Rank #11

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How Bestselling Fantasy & Sci-Fi Author Catherynne M. Valente Writes: Part One

The prolific, multiple award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, Catherynne M. Valente, took a break at her spooky writer’s island to chat with me about her superhero origin story, earning street cred with readers, and her truly unique process. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! Since her first novel — The Labyrinth, published in 2004 — the hybrid author has gone on to pen over 24 volumes of both fiction and poetry across multiple genres (including fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, and horror). In addition to being published and anthologized in dozens of print and online journals, Catherynne has won or been nominated for every major award in her field, including the Hugo Award (for both a novel and a podcast), and been a finalist for both the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She is perhaps best known for her crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making — a book launched by a dedicated online fan community that went on to become a NY Times bestseller. The series — which recently concluded with book five, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home — has been lauded by fellow author Neil Gaiman, and Time magazine called it, “One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century.” The prolific author continues to find innovative ways to connect with her audience, and she recently launched a Patreon project called “The Mad Fiction Laboratory,” where she offers professional and personalized advice on the business and craft of writing, as well as a sneak peek at her multiple works-in-progress. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file Catherynne Valente and I discuss: How to write a novel in three to ten days The story behind her four-month “circus” book tour and the birth of a viral bestseller Her love of performance Previews of her three wildly different upcoming projects The umbrella cover museum that doubles as her office Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com How Bestselling Fantasy & Sci-Fi Author Catherynne M. Valente Writes: Part Two CatherynneMValente.com Catherynne M. Valente on Amazon Cat’s Patreon project – “The Mad Fiction Laboratory” James Patterson Teaches Writing Cat Valente on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter The Transcript How Bestselling Fantasy & Sci-Fi Author Catherynne M. Valente Writes: Part One Voiceover: Rainmaker FM. Kelton Reid: Welcome back to The Writer Files. I am your host, Kelton Reid, to take you on yet another tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of renowned writers. This week the prolific, multiple award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, Catherynne M. Valente took a break at her spooky writer’s island to chat with me about her superhero origin story, earning street cred with readers, and her truly unique process. Since her fortuitous first novel, The Labyrinth, published in 2004, the hybrid author has gone on to pen over twenty four volumes of both fiction and poetry across multiple genres, including fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, and horror. In addition to being published and anthologized in dozens of print and online journals, Catherynne has won or been nominated for every major award in her field, including the Hugo Award, for both a novel and a podcast and been a finalist for both the Nebula and the World Fantasy awards. She is perhaps best known for her crowdfunded phenomenon, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, a book launched by a dedicated online fan community, that went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. The series, which recently concluded with a fifth book, has been lauded by fellow author Neil Gaiman, and Time Magazine called it, “One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century.” The prolific author continues to find innovative ways to connect with her audience and she recently launched a Patreon project called The Mad Fiction Laboratory where she offers professional and personalized advice on the business and craft of writing, as well as a sneak peek into her multiple works in progress. In part one of this file, Cat and I discuss how to write a novel in three to ten days, the story behind her four month circus, book tour, and the birth of a viral bestseller, her love of performance, previews of her three wildly different upcoming projects, and The Umbrella Cover Museum that doubles as her office. The Writer Files is brought to you by the all the new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for authors, bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those selling physical products, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. And if you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews as soon as they’re published. And we are rolling once again on this show with a special guest, and Catherynne M. Valente is here today, multiple award-winning, prolific, New York Times Bestselling author of over a dozen works of fiction and poetry. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule, I know you’ve got a lot in the hopper, to chat with listeners about your fantastic work and your process as a writer. It s real exciting to talk to you today. Catherynne Valente: No problem, thanks for having me. How to Write a Novel in Three to Ten Days Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. I m extremely inspired by your story as a writer. I know you ve done a lot of stuff and I kinda wanna chat about, I guess maybe, for listeners who aren t familiar with you and your fantastic journey to where you are today. Can you kind of give us a little bit of your, just your origins as a writer and how you got your start? I know you’ve done a ton, a ton of stuff. Catherynne Valente: My very minor superhero origin story? Kelton Reid: Yeah. Catherynne Valente: My first novel came out when I was twenty five, so twelve years ago, and it was called The Labyrinth. It came out with Prime Books, which is a small press, independent press. I had really only just graduated from college a couple of years before and I had heard about NaNoWriMo, which was just, or nano-WRY-mo, I always say nano-REE-mo, and I know it’s wrong. It had just started. I was only in its second year and I had just graduated and I was working as a professional fortune teller in Rhode Island. Kelton Reid: Wow. Catherynne Valente: In a genuine, tall, gothic tower, called the Old Armory, in Newport, Rhode Island. I hadn’t really been writing a lot while I was in college, because I was in such an academically rigorous program that I just, I had sort of fallen away from it. Most of what I had done, up until writing that first novel, was poetry. And by most I mean all, except for one short story I was required to write for class. I had done poetry my whole life. But I wanted to see if I could write a novel. I didn’t know if I could, but I thought, “What do I have to lose? I’ll give it a shot.” It was October instead of November, and I didn’t want to wait. And I was 22 so I was full of piss and vinegar, and didn’t know I couldn’t do things yet. So I said, “Thirty days is for wimps. I’m gonna do it in ten.” Kelton Reid: Wow. Catherynne Valente: And I did. Which seems fully insane to me now. Between tarot readings I would pull out my laptop, my little, tiny laptop, and work on this book. And of course I hadn’t even thought about publishing it. I just wanted to see if it was something I could do. I submitted it to a few independent publishers, I knew it was too weird for a big New York publisher, and didn’t really get any … I got a lot of rejections saying, “This is the most beautiful thing we’ve ever read, and we’re definitely not publishing it.” So, at 22, I didn’t really know what to do with that. So I gave up for a while and just put it away. And then I was living in Japan, my then husband, ex-husband, was a naval officer, and I started a LiveJournal. One of the people that I got to know on LiveJournal was Nick Mamatas, and he had just published his first book, so I left a comment on his LiveJournal asking who I should be submitting to, not asking him to look at my work or anything, just, Who’s out there that likes to publish weird stuff? He gave me a list and I said, “Yeah, they’ve all rejected me. Except for Prime Books and they’re not open to submission.” He said, “No, they are. They just don’t want to read slush. So send me your book, and if I like it, I’ll send it on.” And I did, and he did. And I actually got an email from Jeff VanderMeer saying, “They’re going to publish your book. I want to write the introduction. So when they email you to tell you they’re going to publish your book, tell them you want me to write the introduction.” So that was sort of how that first book happened. It was all very much out of the blue. My second book, which I also published with Prime Books, was for the Blue Lake 3-Day Novel competition, in which you’re supposed to write a novel in three days, which is really a misnomer, because it’s supposed to be 30,000 words, which is not a novel by anybody’s definition. The prize for that contest is a publishing contract. I did not win that prize, but Prime published that second book. And then I gave them a manuscript, and, in an act of great magnanimousness, my editor said, “This is much more commercial than anything else you’re writing and I’m going to send it to my friend at Bantam.” Bantam Spectra. And that was the manuscript that became The Orphan’s Tales. Bantam Spectra took a year and a half to get back to me. They said, “We really like it, but we want to see the second book in the series. Which should be fine, because your editor says it’s almost done.” I had not begun this book. I don’t know where my editor got that idea. So my last four months in Japan, as I was preparing a transpacific move, was me trying so hard to finish this book. Just about setting foot back in America, I got an offer from Bantam, and that was my first big New York book. That’s sort of how it all got started back in the early 2000s. Kelton Reid: Geez, and that’s not even that long ago, but … Catherynne Valente: No, I mean, it is and it isn’t. It feels like a lot longer ago than it is, and it doesn’t in a very strange way. Time is weird once you get older. The Story Behind Her Four-Month Circus Book Tour and the Birth of a Viral Bestseller Kelton Reid: Sure, it have a hyperbolic effect at times, when you think of it like that. But, you’ve won or been nominated for every major award in your field, which means you’ve written across these different genres, primarily Fairyland novels, which you’re very well known for. You’ve got all these other fantastic speculative pieces, and you’ve published in multiple award-winning publications. You’ve just done so much, so the prolific nature of it is that it seems like you’re working all the time, or writing all the time. Or that may be just my impression, looking at your resume and all the stuff you’ve done. But anyway, the crowdfunded phenomenon, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, is fascinating to me, because it started on LiveJournal, you mentioned LiveJournal, and you crowdfunded it and it became this New York Times Bestselling book, that then Neil Gaiman blurbed. Can you talk a little about that? Catherynne Valente: Yeah, so I had been going on with Bantam Spectra for another book after The Orphan’s Tales, and unfortunately six weeks before that book was supposed to come out, it’s called Black Wednesday in publishing, the 2008 crash had happened and half of publishing in New York was laid off. So my editor called me and said she had been laid off. It actually turned out that Bantam Spectra ceased to exist that day. It was reorganized back into Random House. And so there was nobody there to pick up the phones. We knew, because you kinda get three strikes in New York. You have three books that fail, you’re gonna have a real hard time breaking in again. And The Orphan’s Tales hadn’t failed. It won a lot of awards and was very critically acclaimed, but it hadn’t had stellar sales. So we had a very strong feeling that if Palimpsest, which was the next book, failed, that was it. So I and my partner and a dear, dear friend of mine named S.J Tucker, who’s a singer-songwriter, decided to make it as much of a success as we could, with knowing that there was one person sitting in a secretarial desk at my publisher s. And there was just nobody to do the work. We got a blurb from Warren Ellis and there was just nobody in the office to tell them to put that on the cover of the book. That’s what happened to publishing during this time, and nobody could sell a book. Unless you were already this massive bestseller, there was no way you could sell a book at the end of 2008, beginning of 2009. So we toured from Maine to Los Angeles for four months, selling this book out of the back of S.J’s tour van. We had all these reading concerts. S.J did an album based on Palimpsest, and she would sing and I would read. We picked up performers everywhere. It was the circus. And everywhere we went, people kept asking me about this one part of Palimpsest, because the main character in that book, her favorite novel from when she was a little girl was The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It was not real. It was just meant to be a little character piece in Palimpsest. Which is a very adult book, by the way, with a capital A and three Xs. And the first paragraph from Fairyland is in Palimpsest and nothing else. But, as part of trying to do everything we could for this book, we made an alternate reality game, and one of the easter eggs was an Amazon order page for Fairyland, or of a cover that I had mocked up out of an Arthur Rackham drawing and everything. And so people were like, “They’re all out of stock on Amazon. Where do I get a copy of this?” I m like, “Well, you’ll notice the url still says CatherynneMValente.com. This is just something we post-modern kids do from time to time.” But people just kept asking where they could get it. And when I got home my partner had been laid off from two jobs, or got laid off from two jobs within six weeks of each other. And we had just moved to Maine not even six months before, and didn’t really have the money to move again to a better job. And so I was like, “Alright, well I’m gonna do a serialized novel then, on my website. And I’ll just put up a little donation button, and hopefully we can pay our rent and get some groceries this month.” And I went through my notes while I was looking for something that I didn’t think I would lose anything if I published it myself. Because back then, Kickstarter hadn’t started up yet, or if it had, it would have just started. Kindle was only just beginning to be a thing. There’s very much a feeling that if you self publish something, you were giving up the possibility of a big publisher. So I thought, “Well, nobody would ever publish a children’s book that was so connected to an adult book with a capital A and three Xs. So I’m not losing anything if I do Fairyland. And everybody wants to read Fairyland. I’ve been hearing about it for months now.” So I did. Her Love of Performance Catherynne Valente: Every Monday I posted a chapter of Fairyland and I recorded myself reading it, which actually turned out to be … I did it because I love to read out loud and I’m good at it, I was an actress most of my life, but it turns out that I have a lot of vision impaired readers who, for the first time, could take part in this viral thing, because they could listen to it. And I had a little donation button that said, “Give whatever you think the book is worth. If you don’t think it’s worth anything, don’t worry about it. If you don’t have any money, don’t worry about it, just enjoy it.” And it went viral within twenty four hours. Boing Boing was doing pieces on it, and io9 and Neil Gaiman linked to it. And it just became this huge thing that saved us, in a very very real and tangible way. I remember being at a convention right after it really hit, and somebody in the audience asked, “Well, you realize you can’t go back and change anything, because you’ve already posted it online.” And I said, “Oh, s***.” It had never occurred to me that that was gonna be a problem. I kept a couple weeks ahead of the posting schedule, but again, much like writing The Labyrinth in ten days instead of thirty, I just ran ahead with something without knowing that I couldn’t do it and it worked out incredibly well. It won this Web Fiction of the Decade Award, up against Girl Genius and Dr. Horrible and XKCD and all of these things which are far more well known than me, even in the organization that runs that, even in their roundup, they’re like, “We don’t understand what happened. We don’t know what this is, but apparently you do.” And it won the Andre Norton Award long before it, a year before, it ever came out in print, which is administered with the Nebula Awards for YA. Before it finished posting online, my agent found an amazing publisher for it, Feiwel and Friends, And it debuted at number eight on the New York Times list. It’s genuine magic. I still don’t really have … People ask me all the time how to do what I did, and the answer is, “I don’t even know if I could do what I did.” It was just a perfect storm of people feeling helpless and wanting to help, of me having a lot of cred from having published traditionally for so long, and a lot of adult readers who had never been able to share my work with their kids, and hopefully the quality of the work, and just who picked it up and ran with it. A lot of things had to come together to make it happen, and it was incredible. Kelton Reid: Wow, wow. It’s surely an inspiring story, to say the least. You’ve got this fan community that is dedicated, a large online following, in addition to everything you have out in the world. So, is the best place to find all of your works at your website, then? Catherynne Valente: Yeah, CatherynneMValente.com. Catherynne is spelled funny. Kelton Reid: It’s a great spelling. Catherynne Valente: Thank you. And I’m very active on Twitter at @CatValente. Kelton Reid: I’ll link to that. I’ll link to both. And of course, you’ve got a more recent development that’s not technically publishing, but it is a Patreon project that you just started up. It sounds like The Mad Fiction Laboratory, which you’re offering advice on the craft and business of writing there, which is really cool to see. So I’ll link to that as well. Did you want to say anything about that? Catherynne Valente: Yeah, so we’ve just started this. This is, like, the third day that it’s existed. And basically, it’s every month, I will be, for subscribers, patrons, I will be putting out an essay, as you say, about the craft and business of writing. But a funny one that makes it entertaining. Important to note, because a lot of those things are just so dry. I remember when I was first starting out just reading endless, endless articles about how to write a hit book and how to get an agent and how to write a good sentence. And most of them, like the best you could hope for, is if it was written in a very serious inspirational tone. And I would often feel exhausted after reading it, like, “Oh, I really want to be a writer, but oh man. I just feel so much pressure from ” Even the inspirational stuff just made me feel like failing at being what that person wanted me to be. So I wanted to write these essays that are very funny and lighthearted that still give that information and a little more motivational oomph. But also, patrons will be able to get excerpts of whatever I’m working on that month. So for example, I just released on the feed today, the first chapter of a book I’m working on that’s so secret, it hasn’t even been announced yet, and I can’t even tell you the title. The patrons know the title now and they can see the first chapter. Kelton Reid: Oh, that’s cool. Catherynne Valente: We haven’t even told anyone it exists yet. So a lot of really exclusive material will be available through the Patreon, as well as teaching people what I have learned after 13 years in the industry. So it’s a little bit of me, it’s a little bit of everyone else, and hopefully we can make mad science together. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. I’m kind of imagining it being like the opposite of the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass where he looks so serious and like, you know, these closeups of his forehead and … Catherynne Valente: Yeah, no, I’ll have bangs so you don’t see any of my forehead. But, I mean, writing is a serious business and it can be incredibly stressful, so I think that making it a fun as possible is the way to get things done. Because if you feel great pressure of creating literature for the ages, and then running a small business, which is what writing is. It’s really hard to come home from work at the end of the day and start up that mountain. Previews of Her Three Wildly Different Upcoming Projects Kelton Reid: For sure, for sure. Well, that’s great. We’ll definitely link to that and point listeners at that one. So you hinted at some secret stuff coming up, but I understand that you have three books coming out this year. Catherynne Valente: I do. They could not be more different, either. So in June, June 7th, The Refrigerator Monologues is coming out. Which is, I like to describe it as, “The vagina monologues for super heroes’ girlfriends.” So it basically takes these tropes of the girl in a refrigerator, which was coined by Gail Simone to describe all of these women in superhero comics who are murdered or maimed and raped and driven crazy and lose their powers, in order to further the plot line of the male hero, rather than that being important because it happened to them. So because I don’t have the right to Gwen Stacy or Harley Quinn or, you know, any of the characters that had this happen to them in comics, I had to just go ahead and create a completely cohesive, superhero cinematic universe of my own. No problem. And so, if you are a big comic book fan, you will have a thousand Easter eggs in this book and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you’re not, they all stand alone. There’s a beautiful comic for each section done by Annie Wu, who’s an amazing comic artist, and I’m so, so excited for it. It’s so different than anything else I’ve ever done. I think I’ve dropped more F-bombs than I ever have in a book before. So I really hope people like that. I also have Mass Effect: Annihilation coming out. I have done a Mass Effect tie in book for the new game, Andromeda, that’s coming out in March. The book’s not coming out in March. The book’s coming out later in the year. And The Glass Town Game is coming out September 5th, which is my next middle grade book. And that one I describe as the Brontë children go to Narnia, Charlotte Brontë and Emily Brontë, Ann Brontë, and their brother Branwell. When they were little kids, before they became these famous writers, when they were little kids they were just like any other geeky kids that you know now, and they made this fantasy world that they kind of LARPed, RPGed. They created this world that’s build out of a child’s understanding of British politics and the Napoleonic Wars and Yorkshire fairytales and all of this crazy stuff. And they wrote in world magazines that were published by their characters. It’s incredible. We still have a great deal of it. And there’s just so much there. The idea of The Glass Town Game, Glass Town is the name of this world, is that they actually went there, that it’s a real place that they actually visited as children. That’ll be coming out in September. Kelton Reid: I love that. So you haven’t been very busy. Catherynne Valente: No, not at all, no. Mostly just sitting back and eating chips. The Umbrella Cover Museum that Doubles as Her Office Kelton Reid: All right, well I’m sure that listeners are eager to hear about your day to day productivity. So how much time, per day, are you getting ready to get into the mode or researching stuff before you start to write? Catherynne Valente: It really depends on whether I’m on deadline or not. I’m on a pretty tight deadline right now, so I will say it does take me quite a while to sort of get into the space. I live on a spooky island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. So I have my house, but my house is filled with animals and a partner and a million distractions. So there’s this place, I’m pointing, you can’t see ’cause it’s a podcast, that I’m pointing towards it, out my window, but down by the waterfront on the island is this little tiny building which, during the summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is an Umbrella Cover Museum, or The Umbrella Cover Museum. It’s a museum for the little sacks that your umbrellas come in that you lose immediately and they all end up here in Maine. But she doesn’t live here. She just lives here in the summer, so for the rest of the year it’s my office. So I go down there, and usually I go down to my office and I spend at least an hour making myself coffee, poking around in my notes, posting to Twitter, and then I sort of ease into work. So it usually takes me an hour or so to get into the right space. On a deadline I’ll be down there every day. But when I don’t have a severe deadline, it’s pretty important for me, in my creative process, to have fallow periods where I’m not pumping out word counts everyday. So, I need to be reading other people’s books, I need to be watching new shows and movies and things like that. I never know how that kind of stuff is gonna feed in. That super secret project I was talking about, I ended up binge watching a bunch of British comedy panel shows, and it actually ended up helping me get into the right voice for this project in a huge way without ever meaning to. I just really like British panel comedy shows. And all that stuff is really important, so I don’t take the dictum of, “You must write every day,” completely seriously. For a creative mind, especially if you’re somebody who works on a lot of projects at once, like I do, I think that the time that you’re not working can be as valuable, as far as getting the juices flowing, as the time that you are working. Kelton Reid: Yeah, for sure. That creative process obviously involves those important steps of putting information out Putting information in, excuse me, the preparation and incubation phase, and then you kinda have the elimination and you sit down and you spit it out. Catherynne Valente: You are what you eat. Kelton Reid: Thank you so much for joining us for this half of a tour of the writer’s process. If you enjoy The Writer Files, please subscribe to the show and leave us a rating or a review on Apple Podcasts to help other writers find us. And for more episodes or just to leave a comment or a question you can always drop by WriterFiles.FM and chat with me on Twitter at @KeltonReid. Cheers. Talk to you next week.

26mins

16 May 2017

Rank #12

Podcast cover

How Bestselling Sci-fi Thriller Author Blake Crouch Writes: Part One

International bestselling sci-fi and thriller novelist and screenwriter, Blake Crouch, took time-out from his busy schedule to talk to me about his mind-bending new book Dark Matter, and adapting his work for both film and TV. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! The hybrid author has penned more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over 30 languages, and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications. In addition to having his Wayward Pines trilogy adapted into a #1 hit TV show by FOX, Blake wrote the screenplay for his latest novel, Dark Matter, for Sony Pictures. He also recently co-created Good Behavior, a TNT show based on his novellas, starring Michelle Dockery (set to premiere November 15th, 2016). His novel Dark Matter was described by the NY Times as an, “… alternate-universe science fiction …. countdown thriller in which the hero must accomplish an impossible task,” and bestselling sci-fi author Andy Weir called it, “An exciting, ingeniously plotted adventure about love, regret, and quantum superposition.” If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file Blake Crouch and I discuss: The power of self-publishing for a traditionally published author Why in-depth research is so crucial to writing believable fiction The importance of outlining for a bestselling author and screenwriter How the right soundtrack can boost your creativity Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes Audible is Offering a Free Audiobook Download with a 30-day Trial: Grab Your Free Audiobook Here – audibletrial.com/rainmaker How Bestselling Sci-fi Thriller Author Blake Crouch Writes: Part Two How Oscar Nominee Emma Donoghue (Screenwriter of ‘Room’) Writes: Part One BlakeCrouch.com Dark Matter: A Novel – Blake Crouch Blake Crouch on Facebook Blake Crouch on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter The Transcript How Bestselling Sci-fi Thriller Author Blake Crouch Writes: Part One Voiceover: Rainmaker FM Kelton Reid: Welcome back to The Writer Files. I m your host Kelton Reid, here to take you on yet another tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of renowned writers to learn their secrets. International best selling sci-fi and thriller novelist and screenwriter, Blake Crouch, took time out this week from his busy schedule to talk to me about his mind bending new book, Dark Matter, and adapting his work for both film and television. The hybrid author has penned more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages. His short fiction has appeared in numerous publications. In addition to having his Wayward Pines trilogy adapted into a number one hit TV show by Fox, Blake wrote the screenplay for his latest novel, Dark Matter, for Sony Pictures. He also recently co-created Good Behavior, a TNT show based on his novellas starring Michelle Dockery. His novel Dark Matter was described by the New York Times as an alternate universe science fiction countdown thriller and best selling sci-fi author Andy Weir called it, “an exciting, ingeniously plotted adventure about love, regret, and quantum superposition.” In part one of this file Blake and I discuss the power of self publishing for a traditionally published author, why in-depth research is so critical for creating believable fiction, the importance of outlining for a bestselling author and screenwriter, and how the right soundtrack can boost your creativity. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files please click “subscribe” to automatically see new interviews as soon as they’re published. This episode of The Writer Files is brought to you by Audible. I ll have more on their special offer later in the show but if you love audiobooks or you’ve always wanted to give them a try, you can check out over 180,000 titles right now at Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. Adapting your Writing for Film and Television Kelton Reid: I am rolling today on the podcast with a very special guest, Blake Crouch, best selling novelist, screenwriter, short story writer, international best selling author of The Wayward Pines trilogy and most recently Dark Matter. Thanks for popping on to talk with us about your process. Blake Crouch: My pleasure. Kelton Reid: I understand this new one is getting just so much positive energy behind it. You’re already, I think, working on a screenplay for Sony. Is that right? Blake Crouch: Yeah, just turned that screenplay in not too long ago, actually. Kelton Reid: That’s cool to hear, I’m always interested in authors who adapt their writing for the screen. I’m thinking specifically of another author who came on to chat with me, Emma Donoghue, who wrote Room which is a fantastic and award winning … Blake Crouch: Love that book. Kelton Reid: … both a book and a movie. I hope you saw the movie, because the movie is a very, very moving adaptation. She wrote that one, so are you excited about this process? Are you nervous? Blake Crouch: I like the process. This is my first time wading into the feature waters. Up until now all of my work in adaptation has been in television, in Wayward Pines and in this new show that’s coming out in November from TNT called Good Behavior. This is the first time I’ve jumped into these feature filled waters. Yeah it’s kind of a new experience. Kelton Reid: Yeah, Dark Matter it seems tailor made for this jump to the big screen. It’s described as an alt universe sci-fi countdown thriller. It’s truly compelling writing, definitely some high concept stuff. What else are you working on at the moment? Now that you’ve got the screenplay in, do you have other projects lined up? Blake Crouch: We just finished the first season of Good Behavior and we’re in this sort of in-between place, trying to decide if we’re going to have a third season of Wayward Pines or not. On the book side I’m just in that stage of trying to figure out what I’m going to do next. That for me is always the most exhilarating and some days depressing, some days so thrilling process, because to start writing a book you’re making a two year commitment and beyond. Especially if it becomes a television show or a movie. Finding that right idea, it’s so elusive. I was just talking with a friend and it almost compares to getting married to an idea. You’re signing this prenup, kind of, you’re being like, “It’s probably not going to work out. We’re probably going to go our separate ways and I’m going to write something else but for now let’s just see how this goes.” So I’m in that stage with a new book, trying to figure out, Is this the one? The Power of Self-Publishing for a Traditionally Published Author Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. Congrats on all of your successes. I’m interested in the origin of, going from a self published author, you’re kind of a hybrid author I think, you do both self publishing and traditional publishing, going from self published author to now in demand Hollywood screenwriter and scribe. Can you tell us a little bit about the journey? The inception of kind of how you got here? Blake Crouch: Well, I actually started in traditional publishing back in 2004 with St. Martin’s Press. That was actually my first published book, this horror thriller called Desert Places. I published with St. Martin’s until, I think 2010, but during that period of time none of these books were really blowing up and I felt like a lot of writers did back in those days before digital publishing was an option. I felt like I was in the dark, I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what they were doing for the books. It’s insecurity making is what it is. I was having a lot of difficulty seeing how I was going to continue this path indefinitely as a writer. Each book was sort of subsequently selling less and less, and I could see the writing on the wall. I was like, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen here.” Then in 2007, Amazon released the Kindle, and shortly thereafter the Kindle Digital Text Platform, KDP as we know it now. I, on a lark, did this experiment with a friend of mine, named Joe Konrath, where we published this short story called Serial and we made it free on Kindle. It hit number one in the store, and back in those days the Kindle store, there was no distinction free or paid, it was all thrown into one thing. It hit number one and we gave away a ton of books. I was like, “Wow, the power of self publishing is real.” I suddenly had all this control over my own destiny. I got really lucky in terms of timing, because I, at this point in time, had gotten the rights back to some of those novels that St. Martin’s had published. So I had some content to actually put up on KDP. I published Desert Places and Locked Doors and they started to do really well. I published all these short stories I had been selling to magazines in a collection and individually, and those started doing well. At this point I was still holding onto the dream of a big publishing deal, but I had this novel, Run, which I was really excited about. It was the first big idea book I’d ever tackled, but we couldn’t sell it anywhere. My agent at the time said, “What do you want to do? Do you want to keep trying to sell this to New York?” I said, “No. Let’s go ahead and stop doing that. I’m going to try to self publish this.” I self published Run in February of 2011 and it did really well. It just raced up the charts. People responded very positively to it. Off the heat of that publication I got a call from Amazon Publishing. They had seen what was happening in the Kindle universe and Amazon Publishing was created to start collecting the stuff that was getting the most attention and try to publish it themselves. I liked the idea of working with a publisher inside of Amazon that could pull all of those levers that were so powerful for marketing e-books. I signed up with Thomas & Mercer and my first book, or second book with them, was the first book in the Wayward Pines trilogy, Pines. And I published the Wayward Pines trilogy with them and we sold the TV rights, and that exploded and got crazy and then it came around time for Dark Matter. Life is weird that way. Kelton Reid: We will be right back after a very short break. Thanks so much for listening to The Writer Files. This episode of The Writer Files is brought to you by Audible, offering over 180,000 audiobook titles to choose from. Audible seamlessly delivers the world’s both fiction and nonfiction to your iPhone, Android, Kindle or computer. For Rainmaker FM listeners, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check them out. Grab your free audiobook right now by visiting Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. I just hopped over there to grab Stephen King’s epic novel 11.22.63, about an English teacher who goes back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK. You can download your pick or any other audiobook free by heading over to Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. To download your free audiobook today, go to Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. Blake Crouch: All signs pointed to the right move being going back to traditional publishing for Dark Matter, because I’d had a lot of success in the digital world with Wayward Pines and with my self published stuff. Though everyone kept saying it, print was not dead, or maybe just fading, but print was hanging around out there. You still see hardcovers everywhere and I wanted my book in airport stores, I wanted the actual hardcover out everywhere because every hardcover is a billboard for your book. So I went back to Crown with Dark Matter. I was traditionally published, self published, published by Amazon, which is I think somewhere in between, and then back to New York publishing. But right now I still have control of a large chunk of my catalog and I self publish that, my back list. I have my Wayward Pines series with Amazon Publishing and they’re doing Good Behavior as well, and I have Dark Matter with Crown. I feel that’s a good diversification of formats and methods of publishing. Kelton Reid: Yeah, it’s amazing. You’re truly prolific. Congrats on all of the success man, it’s really cool to see. Blake Crouch: Thank you. Why In-Depth Research is so Crucial to Writing Believable Fiction Kelton Reid: I’d love to dig into your productivity. It’s interesting to me that this most recent one, Dark Matter, that Andy Weir, another guest on the show, called, “Exciting, ingeniously plotted, an adventure story about love, regret and quantum superposition,” which you don’t hear very often. It seems like quite a bit of research went into this one. Can you tell us a little bit maybe about your process as you’re working on a bigger piece like that? Blake Crouch: Well, I had been wanting to write about quantum mechanics for a decade. This was going back into my traditionally published days, but quantum mechanics is so cerebral and convoluted and complicated that every time I got excited about it I would start to do research and become demoralized, because I felt like I didn’t understand it. While all this other stuff was going on in my professional life I would consistently come back to the idea of writing a thriller with quantum mechanics at its core. I would read articles and I would study everything I could find that I could understand, building this body of knowledge about this field of science. When I finished Wayward Pines and I was starting to try to figure out what my next idea was going to be, that sort of, “Are we going to get married or not?” phase, I came back to this quantum mechanics thriller concept. I finally felt like I had done enough of the research and at least knew enough about the general concepts to take a swing at it. Kelton Reid: Yeah, so kind of the incubation phase was working in the background as you were working on some other projects I imagine, and then you had the illumination that you were ready to get it in there. Blake Crouch: Exactly. The Importance of Outlining for a Bestselling Author and Screenwriter Kelton Reid: That’s cool. Before you crack your knuckles and get working, do you have any pregame rituals to get you in the mode for writing? Blake Crouch: No, I don’t. When I start a book, when I start an idea the first thing I do is I’ll buy a journal and I’ll spend several months, sometimes six months, just taking notes on the idea, taking notes on various characters. It’s very free form. It’s kind of like just improvisation until you finally land on something that you think is worth expanding out. I have, like with Dark Matter, I think I have three or four journals of notes on that one. The early stages are like all these other ideas that I was contemplating at the time. It’s interesting to go back and look at those. I very distinctly see where certain key characters or plot turns or themes were hinted at in those pages. It’s almost like a conversation I’m having with myself, part trying to psych myself up to write the book, part trying to explore all the ideas that at any given time are bouncing around in my head, because I do think if you keep coming back to a certain idea or these sort of subconscious things that keep haunting you as a writer that it means something. It means it’s the book that you’re probably supposed to write next. You just have to tune into that frequency and figure out what it is. In terms of actual … You’re asking what my actual writing day looks like when I’m cruising along. Kelton Reid: Yeah, absolutely. Blake Crouch: I go back and forth between some days trying to get five hundred words, some days trying to get a thousand words. It just depends on how it’s feeling and other things that are happening in my life at that moment. By the time I sit down to start writing I’ll generally have journaled enough that I have a pretty good sense of the first act, less of a sense of the second act, and some notions about the third. The first hundred pages usually comes fairly easily and as I’m writing those hundred pages and knocking down five hundred to a thousand words a day, I’m still starting to think about what comes next and trying to start sketching out at least a general structure so that when I break into the second act I don’t have to come to a standstill and figure it out. Kelton Reid: Yeah. I imagine as both a TV producer and screenwriter that you’re changing modes from time to time. Are you a morning guy? An evening guy? Do you do a little bit of each? How do you break that up, in your brain, anyway? Blake Crouch: I really like writing in the mornings, just because if I get my writing done by noon, if I’ve gotten my word count knocked out I feel good about myself for the rest of the day. Everything else is gravy. If I’m in the midst of writing a book and I don’t start writing until late in the afternoon there’s this anxiety like I’m not going to hit my words and I start feeling kind of *y about myself, like, “Ugh, wally. You wasted your day. Yeah you did a bunch of phone calls about other things but phone calls aren’t writing.” It just is always better for me if I can get my writing done before lunchtime. How the Right Soundtrack can Boost your Creativity Kelton Reid: Yeah, absolutely. Are you a writer who can stick on headphones or do you prefer kind of quiet while you’re getting your words in? Blake Crouch: I can’t listen to any music with words, with singing or any kind of lyrics while I’m writing. Generally I like silence, but for a lot of Dark Matter I would stream Hans Zimmer, especially the soundtrack for Inception and Interstellar. I actually built a soundtrack of music from films that I love that somehow carry the spirit of what I thought Dark Matter was, like The Fountain, the Darren Aronofsky film. I’m blanking, I think it’s Clint something. I’m blanking on the … Kelton Reid: Mansell. Yeah, totally. Blake Crouch: There it is. Kelton Reid: That is so awesome. Blake Crouch: Yeah, I kind of built a playlist for myself that was the score for my book. Kelton Reid: That’s so funny. You are not going to believe this but I actually stuck on that Inception soundtrack while I was reading your book, just kind of had it humming in the background, because it’s one of my favorites to write to but it’s so atmospheric and creepy but it’s not overwhelmingly so. It’s that perfect soundtrack music. That’s amazing. That’s really cool. You’re a fan of Christopher Nolan’s work. Thanks so much for joining me for this half of a tour through the writer’s process. If you enjoy The Writer Files podcast please subscribe to the show and leave us a rating or a review on iTunes to help other writers find us. For more episodes, or to just leave a comment or a question, you can drop by WriterFiles.FM. You can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers, talk to you next week.

19mins

24 Oct 2016

Rank #13

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How to Stay Creative with Bestselling Author Austin Kleon: Part One

Welcome back to another special edition of The Writer Files focused squarely on creativity and how to keep the creative juices flowing under duress. New York Times bestselling author, Austin Kleon, returned to talk about his journey, a wariness of technology, and his new book. "Writers aren't born, they are made." - Austin Kleon Austin Kleon has been deemed “one of the most interesting people on the Internet” (The Atlantic Magazine), and he is “a writer who draws,” best known for illustrated creativity manifestos Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! His latest, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad (Amazon), is the third book in his "box set." It offers ten simple, timeless, practical "...rules for how to stay creative, focused, and true to yourself — for life." Important messages for writers. His work has been translated into over twenty languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Kleon speaks about “creativity in the digital age” for organizations as varied as Pixar, Google, SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews In Part One of this two part file Austin Kleon and I discussed: How to stay inspired in crazy times Why life is hard and creative work is harder How to think of creativity like the movie Groundhog's Day Why you should stay mindful and 'practice in public' The importance of lists, rituals, routines, and writing every day And the authors that have shaped Austin's skepticism of technology and his creative journey Show Notes: This podcast is produced solely by yours truly and New Media Dojo, my production moniker, and I'm incredibly thankful to you for your continued listenership and loyalty. Please leave us a comment or question and visit the archives at writerfiles.fm where I humbly ask you to support the show with an anonymous, secure donation to help us keep going with more great writerly content. For listeners who donate $25 or more and leave me a message, I will include your name and the type of writing you're working on, on air or in the show notes. Just head over to writerfiles.fm and click the Donate button. Thank you, sincerely – Kelton Support The Writer Files with a secure PayPal donation How to Stay Creative with Bestselling Author Austin Kleon: Part Two AustinKleon.com Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon (Amazon) Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon How Bestselling Author Austin Kleon Writes: Part One Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey 'The Writer's Brain' on Productivity vs. Creativity: Part One How WNYC Podcast Host and Author of 'Bored and Brilliant' Manoush Zomorodi Writes Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman  (Amazon) The Real World of Technology by Ursula M. Franklin Austin Kleon on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter

24mins

16 Apr 2019

Rank #14

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How ‘Sweetbitter’ Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part Two

The instant national bestselling author of the acclaimed debut novel Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler, stopped by the show to chat with me about her not-so-overnight success as a rising literary star. Ms. Danler signed a six-figure deal with Knopf for her first book, the coming-of-age story of a young woman transplanted into New York City’s upscale, cutthroat restaurant world. Bestselling author Jay McInerney called Sweetbitter “… a stunning debut novel, one that seems destined to help define a generation,” and the book has been compared to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Before returning to her love of writing, and earning an MFA in Fiction from The New School in NY, Ms. Danler spent much of her life working in the food and wine industry. Stephanie has also written essays for The Paris Review, Vogue, Literary Hub, and Travel + Leisure. Join us for this two-part interview, and if you’re a fan of the show, please subscribe in iTunes to automatically see new interviews, and help other writers find us. If you missed the first half you can find it right here. In Part Two of the file Stephanie Danler and I discuss: The Dichotomy of Procrastination and Deadlines Why Relationships Are Important to Writers On the Deconstruction and Sanctity of Creativity How Great Writers Leave ‘Blood on the Page’ Some Great Advice on Why You Just Need to Finish Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes How ‘Sweetbitter’ Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part One Sweetbitter: A novel – Stephanie Danler StephanieDanler.com with Links to Essays by Stephanie Danler This is Water – David Foster Wallace Stephanie Danler on Instagram Stephanie Danler on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter The Transcript How Sweetbitter Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part Two Kelton Reid: The Writer Files is brought to you by StudioPress, the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins built on the Genesis Framework. StudioPress delivers state of the art SEO tools, beautiful and fully responsive design, air-tight security, instant updates, and much more. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 177,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/studiopress right now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/studiopress. These are The Writer Files, a tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of working writers from online content creators to fictionists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and beyond. I’m your host, Kelton Reid, writer, podcaster, and mediaphile. Each week we’ll discover how great writers keep the ink flowing, the cursor moving, and avoid writer’s block. The instant national best-selling author of the acclaimed debut novel Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler, stopped by the show this week to chat with me about her not-so-overnight success as a rising literary star. Ms. Danler signed a six figure deal with Knapf for her first book, the coming of age story of a the young woman transplanted into New York City’s upscale, cut-throat restaurant world. Best-selling author Jay McInerny called Sweetbitter a stunning debut novel, one that seems destined to help define a generation. The book has been compared to Anthony Bourdain‘s Kitchen Confidential. Before returning to her love of writing and earning an MFA in fiction from The New School in New York, Ms. Danler spent much of her life working in the food and wine industry. Stephanie has also written essays for The Paris Review, Vogue, Literary Hub, and Travel + Leisure. Join us for this two-part interview, and if you’re a fan of the show, please click “subscribe” to automatically see new interviews with your favorite authors and help other writers to find us. If you missed the first half of this show, you can find it at WriterFiles.FM and in the show notes. In part two of the file, Stephanie and I discuss the dichotomy of procrastination and deadlines, why relationships are important to writers, on the deconstruction and sanctity of creativity, how great writers leave blood on the page, and some sound advice on why you just need to finish. Let’s talk about your work flow a little bit. Are you working on a Mac or a PC there? Stephanie Danler: Oh, a MacBook. I had this ancient one that was so heavy that I used to lug around the world, and this one is so light and fancy. I adore it. Kelton Reid: They get lighter by the day, don’t they? Stephanie Danler: I’m very happy about that. Kelton Reid: Are you a Microsoft Word, or a Scrivener disciple? Stephanie Danler: What’s Scrivener? I have no idea. Microsoft Word. I’m not, like, a software person. Kelton Reid: I just assume that there are two camps, and the Scrivener’s like a new … It’s a newer software that incorporates a lot of kind of organizational tools that a lot of writers are using now. But you sound like a classic, dyed in the wool Microsoft Word-er. Stephanie Danler: Yeah, and lots of notebooks. Not structured or an outline person, or an organized person at all. The Dichotomy of Procrastination and Deadlines Kelton Reid: Do you have any best practices, kind of going back to block and whatnot, for beating procrastination? Stephanie Danler: I mean, no, on procrastination. I don’t know how to beat that. I would welcome any tips that you have. I should listen to the other podcasts. Kelton Reid: I think a lot of writers lean into it because it’s part of their creative process. Stephanie Danler: I think that deadlines are incredible, extremely helpful, and I think adrenaline is extremely helpful. Maybe that’s because I worked in restaurants for so long that it feels very familiar to me. For beating block, I think there’s just reading. I think that when you’re feeling bored or uninspired by your own mind, I think it’s time to visit someone else’s mind. I was just recently rereading Susan Sontag’s journals, and she’s admonishing herself. She’s like, “You will not read anymore. You are procrastinating.” I was like, “Okay. I could just be so lucky to procrastinate like Susan Sontag. I’ll take the reading.” Why Relationships Are Important to Writers Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. For sure. So Campari and soda, a glass of wine. How else does Stephanie Danler unplug at the end of a long writing day? Stephanie Danler: There’s definitely a beverage involved, and I think that it really does signal that you’ve exited the work day in a way. I like to be outside. It’s part of the reason that I moved to Southern California, even though I’d barely been here. But I think it’s important to actually be in nature as much as possible. You miss that in the city, by just contact with the world. I need to talk to people. It’s a very intense experience to sit alone with your many voices all day, trying to decide which to listen to. I think that calling someone and getting out of your own head and your own problems is the reminder that, “Oh, I’m just a human. I’m just a regular human being in the world, and I’m going to go to sleep, and this doesn’t matter so much.” It does. It’s art, and it’s what I’ve dedicated my life to, but there’s also just living, and being a good friend, and a good partner, and making meals. That’s equally as important. On the Deconstruction and Sanctity of Creativity Kelton Reid: For sure. Well, I’d love to dig into your creativity if you have time. Stephanie Danler: Yeah. That’s like, the vaguest word. It’s like one of those catch-alls, and it’s like a branding tool now, that I don’t even know what it means. But yes, ask away. Kelton Reid: How do you personally define creativity? Stephanie Danler: As I was just being so cynical about creativity, I was thinking also about how sacred it really is. When I think about real creativity, I think about that moment when you’ve been staring at the same material, or the same words, or the same landscape, or building, or face, and you feel like you know it. You feel like everything about it is staid and formulaic, and it’s dead. Then these synapses connect, and it’s new. Then I think about Ezra Pound’s slogan, “Make it new.” I think that that’s creativity. There is no new material. There’s only new ways of perceiving, and that is where original, exciting thought comes from. Kelton Reid: When do you personally feel the most creative? You may have already answered this, but can you nail it down? Stephanie Danler: Yeah. I think that it’s really important to remember how much of writing takes place away from the desk and off the page. I find that I’m very creative where I’m having those synapses firing, where I’m seeing connections, when I’m in transit. Whether I’m driving, or walking, or riding the subway, those are extremely fertile times for thought, because you can wander. That’s all writing, for me. That’s all work. I’m not always even in a rush to write those things down. I kind of observe the thoughts, and if they’re important, and if they’re going to add to whatever dialogue I’m having, they’ll come back to me at the desk. I think in transit is a really lovely time. Kelton Reid: Do you have a creative muse right now? Stephanie Danler: I have been walking a lot since I’ve been back, and I live in Laurel Canyon, so I’m surrounded by trails. I used to walk a lot in New York as well. I used to walk the bridge. I found that to give me a really great mental space. I’m always reading poets, and I read poetry first thing in the morning, and that is such a huge part of my practice. They, whoever they are, never fail to make me excited about language again, which, excitement is one step away from inspiration. Usually that works. How Great Writers Leave ‘Blood on the Page’ Kelton Reid: Very nice. In your estimation, what makes a writer great? Stephanie Danler: That’s a huge question. I really value honesty. Not just honesty, but sincerity in writing. I find, in a lot of modern or postmodern fiction, I feel this distance from the reader, this lack of sincerity, where I’m supposed to be appreciating how clever something is, but the writer hasn’t actually left any blood on the page, so to speak. There isn’t this authenticity, and I’m drawn towards writers in which I can really feel their pulse right behind the page. I don’t know whether that’s lived experience, and there are plenty of fiction writers who make everything up that can give you that feeling, but that’s a mark of talent. Kelton Reid: Completely. Do you have a couple of favorites right now that you’re just kind of stuck on? Sitting on your bedside table? Stephanie Danler: I have such an insane stack on my bedside table. I am so bored of hearing myself praise Maggie Nelson, because I do it all the time, but Maggie Nelson is a critic, essayist, poet. She most recently put out The Argonauts, which is a masterpiece. Then, we have her book of poetry. It’s really a poetic essay called Bluets. At this point, I’ve read everything that she’s written, and she does not care about genre. She does not care about the rules, and I find it so inspiring. Kelton Reid: That’s awesome. Do you have a best-loved quote floating there somewhere over your desk, like so many authors? Stephanie Danler: Yeah. I have a bunch. I actually have a bunch of poems. But my real quotes are on my body. I have some tattoos that are quotes that I carry with me. I have, “This is Water,” from David Foster Wallace, which was a speech he gave at my university, Kenyon College, which has now turned into, like, a manifesto of sorts. What else do I have? I have Clarice Lispector, the last line of her book The Passion According to G.H., is, “And so I adore it,” which is really just an affirmation, after you’ve gone through this novel of destruction, really. It’s really allegorical and very Kafkaesque, even though I hate it when people call things Kafkaesque. That’s the easiest way for me to put it. After you’ve gotten to the bottom of this hole, where there’s no meaning, it ends with this kind of cry, “And so I adore it.” I think of that one often. Kelton Reid: Very cool. I’ve got a couple of fun ones for you, to wrap it up. We will be right back after a very short break. Thanks so much for listening to The Writer Files. Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. Some would say that we produce incredible live events as an excuse to throw great parties, but that’s another story. We’ve got another one coming up this October in Denver. It’s called Digital Commerce Summit and it is entirely focused on giving you the smartest ways to create and sell digital products and services. You can find out more at Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit. We’ll be talking about Digital Commerce Summit in more detail, as it gets closer. For now, I’d like to let a few attendees from our past events speak for us: Attendee 1: For me, it’s just hearing from the experts. This is my first industry event, so it’s awesome to learn new stuff and also get confirmation that we’re not doing it completely wrong where I work. Attendee 2: The best part of the conference for me is being able to mingle with people and realize that you have connections with everyone here. It feels like LinkedIn live. I also love the parties after each day, being able to talk to the speakers, talk to other people who are here for the first time, people who have been here before. Attendee 3: I think the best part of the conference, for me, is understanding how I can service my customers a little more easily. Seeing all the different facets and components of various enterprises then helps them pick the best tools. Jerod Morris: Hey, we agree one of the biggest reasons we host the conference every year is so that we can learn how to service our customers, people like you, more easily. Here are just a few more words from folks who have come to our past live events. Attendee 4: It’s really fun. I think it’s a great mix of beginner information and advanced information. I’m really learning a lot and having a lot of fun. Attendee 5: The conference is great, especially because it’s a single-track conference where you don’t get distracted by Which session should I go to? and, Am I missing something? Attendee 6:The training and everything, the speakers have been awesome, but I think the coolest aspect for me has been connecting with those people who are putting it on and the other attendees. Jerod Morris: That’s it for now. There’s a lot more to come on Digital Commerce Summit. I really hope to see you there in October. Again, to get all the details and the very best deal on tickets, head over to Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit. Kelton Reid: Are you a paper or an e-book lover? Stephanie Danler: I don’t have an e-book thing. I can’t do it. I can’t even talk about it. Kelton Reid: Should we cut this? Stephanie Danler: It makes traveling so difficult. No. I love that people read, and my friends have their Kindles, and they love their Kindles, and it’s made them more voracious readers, and I’m so happy about that, but that’s repulsive. I can’t. You have no sense of weight or where you are in a book, and you can’t dog-ear the pages, and you can’t write in them. It’s just, no, no, no. Not for me. Kelton Reid: Well, I believe that you can make marginalia in some Kindles now, but of course it doesn’t look the same years and years down the road when somebody else opens the book. Stephanie Danler: There’s something about reading, even on a computer screen, where you have no idea of where you are in the novel. I love reading a passage and knowing that I’m one-third of the way in, and that sense of expectation that it builds. The way you engage with it knowing that you’re five pages away from the ending, you’re just lost on the screen in cyberspace. It’s terrible. Kelton Reid: It sounds like an alternate dimension. Stephanie Danler: You don’t have to cut this. I really believe in everything I’m saying. I’m very comfortable with this. Kelton Reid: We’ll leave it all in. It’s great. It’s good stuff. Do you have kind of a favorite literary character of all time? Stephanie Danler: That’s such a fun one. I love Henry James‘ women. I love Isabelle Archer from Portrait of a Lady, followed closely by Madame de Vionnet in The Ambassadors. One is like, the young, intelligent, optimistic heroine of the novel, and then Madame de Vionnet is the older, manipulative, cynical, slightly toxic character. Obviously, if you have read my book, I’ve drawn from both of those. I love his women. Kelton Reid: If you could choose an author from any era for an all expense paid dinner to your favorite restaurant in the world, who would you take, and where would you take them? Stephanie Danler: I would take this writer M.F.K. Fisher. She wrote in the mid-20th century. She’s ostensibly a cookery writer, but she’s one of the most underrated writers of the 20th century. She’s incredible. She basically writes personal essays that are centered around food, but at the end you’re crying and you don’t know why. She’s incredibly powerful and very dark and funny. M.F.K. Fisher and I … Where would I take her? She lived in France for so long. I would love to take her to Spain. I’ve been to Spain. I was a Spanish wine buyer for a moment, and I’ve traveled extensively throughout that country, and I think she would be shocked by the quality of food in places like San Sebastian and Barcelona. Yeah, I would take M.F.K. Fisher on a tapeo, a tapas crawl. Kelton Reid: Nice, nice. Love that idea. Actually, it’s making me very hungry and thirsty thinking about that. Do you have any writer s fetishes? I know a lot of writers have collections and rare artifacts of the trade, and many don’t. Do you have anything that kind of hangs around or follows you around the world? Stephanie Danler: I mean, I have my notebooks, and I’ve been writing in them forever. I have my ridiculous library, but I think that every writer has a ridiculous library. My collection of old magazines and old Paris Reviews and old Kenyon Reviews, those are kind of special and idiosyncratic. I have a small collection of The Partisan Review, which was really powerful in the 40s and 50s. It was more powerful intellectually than The New Yorker at the time. Those are so special. You have Jean-Paul Sartre writing for The Partisan Review next to Robert Lowell. Those are incredible. Kelton Reid: Going back to the notebook really quick, what kind of notebook is it? Stephanie Danler: They’re Moleskine notebooks. Black. Kelton Reid: Aha. Stephanie Danler: “Aha.” I know. So boring. I keep a small one for personal, private, nonsensical writing. Then, I keep a larger one for thoughts pertaining to work. If anyone ever tries to sell you the small notebook, you don’t want that. You want the big notebook. Some Great Advice on Why You Just Need to Finish Kelton Reid: Can you offer advice to your fellow scribes, fellow writers, on how to keep the ink flowing, how to keep the cursor moving? Stephanie Danler: I think I go back to reading. I think you need to be reading as much as you’re writing, if not more. I also often tell fellow writers that you have to finish. I remember a professor told me that at The New School, Darryl Pinckney. He said, “You need to finish your projects.” I was like, “Well, duh. Of course, I’m trying to finish.” His point is that so many of us start things. There’s so much energy in, “I have written the opening sentences of the great American novel.” But we never finishing it is an entirely different beast. I think another facet of that is not to be too precious about it because writers do not realize that your first draft is almost meaningless. It doesn’t matter how good it is, how bad it is. You’re going to revise it 1,000 times, and until you write the last sentence, you have no idea what you’re looking at. Whether it is the great American novel, or whether it has to be burned. Get to the end. Kelton Reid: Well, Sweetbitter is a great novel. Congratulations. I love this blurb by Jay McInerney, who, that’s impressive alone, said, “A stunning debut, destined to help define a generation.” It really captures that fast paced, kind of late night, sexy subculture of the restaurant world, but it’s so much more. It’s incredibly well written, and I encourage the listeners to seek it out. I’m sure they can’t miss it at this point because it’s kind of everywhere. Congrats on that. I did have a question about kind of, any of your peers from that period, if you are still in touch with them, did they have any thoughts on kind of how you captured the world? Stephanie Danler: Yeah. I am, as you probably know, having worked in restaurants, your restaurant family, you see them around forever. I’ve had so many different restaurant families, and they’ve all shown up at one event or another. Even when I was in Portland, Oregon, where I knew no one, someone showed up who I used to work with who was living there. Everyone’s been so gracious and supportive, and the notes that I receive are so kind, and I think it’s because it’s fiction. I think that probably everyone I’ve ever worked with picked up the book and was like, “Oh, I bet I’m in here.” They’re not. I think that it makes it easier for them to read, and also, so many times, they’re like, “This took me back. This is like a love letter to our lives in that moment.” That is exactly what I wanted. It really is a deeply nostalgic work, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in the process of leaving New York, and Union Square Café was closing, and it really is a tribute to that moment of youth, and that moment in New York City. Kelton Reid: That s cool. Stephanie Danler: Yeah, they have been so lovely. Kelton Reid: That’s awesome to hear. Well, congratulations on all of the successes, and we look forward to more. Hope you come back and talk with us again. Where can writers and listeners connect with you out there? Stephanie Danler: I am very active on Instagram, which seems strange for a writer, because I cannot Tweet. I don’t understand anything about it. But there’s an incredible book loving community on Instagram, where people are sharing writers and recommendations, and I post a lot of poetry that I’m reading, and try to give it as much visibility as possible, and yeah. People seem to like reading it on Instagram, so that’s where I am. Kelton Reid: Neat, neat. Very cool. All right, Stephanie. Well, thanks again, and it has been a true pleasure chatting with you about writing. Stephanie Danler: Thank you so much. Kelton Reid: Thanks so much for joining me for this half of a tour through the writer’s process. If you enjoy The Writer Files podcast, please subscribe to the show and leave us a rating or a review on iTunes to help other writers find us. For more episodes, or to just leave a comment or a question, you can drop by WriterFiles.FM, and you can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers. Talk to you next week.

26mins

15 Aug 2016

Rank #15

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How to Make a Living as a Pro Content Writer: Part One

In this special edition of the show we’re shining the light on freelance writers out there who are making it happen as professional online content creators. These are scribes who have found success — and a very good living — doing what they love … writing and helping others achieve success. In full disclosure, the two writers I’m highlighting in this show, Mark Crosling and Aaron Wrixon, are online content creators and strategists who both run profitable freelance writing businesses. The other thing they have in common, though they came to professional writing from very different paths, is that both writers graduated from Copyblogger’s Certified Content Marketer Training Course (a program that makes this show possible). The program is usually closed, but it reopens periodically for a short time to invite new classes of students into the course. If you re interested in learning more you can simply head over to the Certified Content Marketer training program and get your name on the list. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. My first guest is serial entrepreneur, copywriter, content marketer, and founder of StrategicContent.co, Mark Crosling, who offers content creation, social, and search strategy services. His business credo is “All roads lead to your inbox.” Mark has founded numerous start-ups — four of which became stock exchange listed companies — he has an MBA from the University of New South Wales, and is a Certified Content Marketer through the Copyblogger Certification Program. In this segment Mark Crosling and I discuss: A look at the inner workings of the digital commerce ecosystem How to find a holistic approach to online marketing Why copywriters are the stonemasons of the digital age The upcoming voice search revolution for online writers How to get completely aligned with your audience My second guest is the content maestro and journeyman Aaron Wrixon, of Wrixon.com, who specializes in content marketing services for web agencies and their clients. His business slogan is, “Repeatable process. Repeatable results.” He has over 20 years experience in technical and online content writing, with over five million words and hundreds of projects in dozens of industries under his belt. He is also a Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer. In this segment Aaron Wrixon and I discuss: How to make a living as a writer without hitting the bestseller lists The timing and determination required to find a fulfilling freelance career Why there’s no bad time to become an online content creator The writer’s unique content creation framework for success Why so many online writers struggle with the “Sistine Chapel” effect The Show Notes: Copyblogger’s Certification program is closing to new students on Wednesday this week! You can snag the details (and jump into the program) here.. How to Make a Living as a Pro Content Writer: Part Two StrategicContent.co – Mark Crosling Mark Crosling on Twitter Freelance Writers Share the Surprising Keys to Their Successful Careers Wrixon.com – Aaron Wrixon Aaron’s BRAVER content framework Profitable Writers Demonstrate How to Prosper from Your Words Kelton Reid on Twitter

38mins

25 Sep 2018

Rank #16

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How to Finish Your Big Scary Book with Jennie Nash: Part One

Author, educator, book coach and founder of Author Accelerator, Jennie Nash, joined me this week in a special edition of the show dedicated to unearthing tools and strategies for writers on the winding, sometimes daunting journey, to finishing your big, scary book. "Writing a book is like childbirth." - Jennie Nash Jennie started her career in publishing at Random House and has over 30 years experience in all facets of the industry. She also taught at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program for 12 years and has spoken at writing conferences across the country. She's the author of seven books including a self-help book for writers – The Writer's Guide to Agony and Defeat (Amazon) – and has written hundreds of magazine articles for national publications. For nearly a decade now Jennie has been coaching authors "from inspiration to publication" (including Lisa Chron, author of Wired for Story and Story Genius, and Sam Polk, author of For the Love of Money: A Memoir), helping them to land top New York agents and book deals with major publishers. As the founder of Author Accelerator, described as "A personal trainer for your writing life," she and her team of book coaches now provide writers the blueprint so often lacking in the traditional publishing world ... including the tools, nurturing, and encouragement needed to finish their work and get it into the world successfully. In a serendipitous turn of events, after this interview Author Accelerator became a sponsor of this show, and I'll tell you all about a resource they've created just for listeners of this show during our chat. This conversation is tailor-made for writers just starting out or well along on your journey to publish. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this two part file Jennie Nash and I discussed: Why the stages of writing a book are like the stages of grief How Jennie came up with a winning formula for helping writers bring their books to life The questions so many writers forget to ask before they start writing their book The frustrations and roadblocks authors run up against in the middle of a book How to make meaningful progress toward finishing Creativity and the myth of the lone genius And why writers can't wait around to be picked Show Notes: Author Accelerator The Writer's Guide to Agony and Defeat: The 43 Worst Moments in the Writing Life and How to Get Over Them by Jennie Nash (Amazon) For the Love of Money: A Memoir by Sam Polk Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid Author Accelerator on Facebook Jennie Nash on Twitter Author Accelerator on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter Please click the PayPal Donate button to support The Writer Files with a secure PayPal donation

30mins

15 May 2019

Rank #17

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How WNYC Podcast Host and Author of ‘Bored and Brilliant’ Manoush Zomorodi Writes

Award-winning podcast host, managing editor of WNYC Studios’ “Note to Self,” and author of Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self, Manoush Zomorodi, took a break from her hectic schedule to rap with me about her claim to fame as a podcaster, the neuroscience of boredom, and how to recharge your creative batteries. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! Manoush is a former globetrotting journalist and producer for both BBC and Reuters. She has won four New York Press Club awards for her work with New York Public Radio and was named 2017 s Best Tech Podcast by the Academy of Podcasters. Her podcast is described as a tech show that “…searches for answers to life s digital quandaries through experiments and conversations with listeners and experts.” Her first book, Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self, is grounded in both neuroscience and cognitive psychology and based on a groundbreaking experiment she conducted with thousands of her podcast listeners to “…help them unplug from their devices, get bored, [and] jump-start their creativity…” In addition to her popular TED talk “How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas,” she has appeared on NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, WNBC, and The Dr. Oz Show and contributes to NPR, Quartz, Inc., and Radiolab. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In this file Manoush Zomorodi and I discuss: The miracle of technology and its inherent ills Why our favorite algorithms are programmed to distract us How the author enlisted thousands of podcast listeners for her one-of-a-kind experiment Why you need to change your digital habits to be more creative Why first drafts suck and the power of deadlines A refreshing definition of creativity Why you should beware of technology that claims to solve your problems with more technology Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self – Manoush Zomorodi ManoushZ.com Note to Self podcast – Produced by WNYC Studios TED talk: “How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas” – Manoush Zomorodi A Georgetown professor says the mindset that led us all to embrace Facebook could ultimately stall your career How Einstein Thought: Why “Combinatory Play” Is the Secret of Genius – Maria Popova Manoush Zomorodi on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter

44mins

31 Oct 2017

Rank #18

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How NY Times Bestselling Thriller Author Tess Gerritsen Writes

International and New York Times bestselling author, Tess Gerritsen, dropped by to chat with me about the role of luck in finding success as a writer, where she draws inspiration for her thrillers, her love-hate relationship with writing for the screen, and her unique creative process. “Make every single chapter feel that somebody is off balance, that something is not right. That is what propels readers to read the next chapter.” – Tess Gerritsen The award-winning author graduated from medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, and began her writing career in earnest while on maternity leave from her work as a physician. She published her first romantic thriller in 1987 and never looked back. Her books have since topped the charts in both the US and abroad, and sold more than 30 million copies in 40 countries. Tess has now written 28 novels, including the acclaimed Rizzoli & Isles series (which inspired the TNT TV series of the same name starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander), as well as both romantic suspense and medical & crime thrillers. Though she's been dubbed the “medical suspense queen,” her latest novel, The Shape of Night, is a departure in genre that Tess describes as an "erotic psychological thriller" with both supernatural and Gothic elements. Publishers Weekly said of the book, “This supernatural thriller from bestseller Gerritsen ranks with the best of her crime fiction. . . .[A] magnetic haunted house story [that] will keep readers riveted from the very first page.” And #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner wrote, "Gerritsen is at her atmospheric best in this spine-tingling tale of a lone woman, an old house, and all the secrets everyone tries to hide.” Please help us learn more about you by completing this short 7-question survey This episode of The Writer Files is brought to you by the team at Author Accelerator. Author Accelerator book coaches give writers feedback, accountability, and support while you write, so you can get that your idea out of your head and onto the page. If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In this file Tess Gerritsen and I discussed: Her winding journey to bestseller and a "ten book" overnight success Why she prefers to pen novels over writing for Hollywood Navigating the mysteries and fairy dust of the publishing industry Tricks to master storytelling in any genre The secret to writing drafts that will never get lost in the cloud And her creativity hacks for beating writer's block Show Notes: Author Accelerator TessGerritsen.com The Shape of Night: A Novel by Tess Gerritsen [Amazon] The 13 Scariest Books Written This Year Tess Gerritsen on Facebook Tess Gerritsen on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter

28mins

22 Oct 2019

Rank #19

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How Bestselling Author Jennifer Weiner Writes: Part One

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, Jennifer Weiner, took a few minutes to talk with me about the writer’s life, her new memoir, and Revenge of the Nerds. Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting. Start getting more from your site today! Prior to her prolific career as a novelist, Ms. Weiner started out as a small town newspaper reporter and freelancer, before signing her first big book deal for her novel Good in Bed (2001). Since then her books have spent over five years on the New York Times bestseller list, she has had a novel made into a major motion picture — In Her Shoes, starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette (2005) — contributed op-eds to the New York Times, executive produced a TV series, and published a children’s book (The Littlest Bigfoot). Her latest offering is the memoir Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing, and it “… is about yearning and fulfillment, loss and love, and a woman who searched for her place in the world, and found it as a storyteller.” If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In Part One of this file Jennifer Weiner and I discuss: How Her Iconic Writing Mentors Joyce Carol Oates and John McPhee Helped Guide Her Why Ten Years and 10,000 Hours in the Trenches Is Par for the Course How Working in Busy Environments Boosts Your Productivity Great Tricks to Keep the Ink Flowing, without Opening a Vein Listen to The Writer Files: Writing, Productivity, Creativity, and Neuroscience below ... Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes The Show Notes Audible is Offering a Free Audiobook Download with a 30-day Trial: Grab Your Free Audiobook Here – audibletrial.com/rainmaker How Bestselling Author Jennifer Weiner Writes: Part Two JenniferWeiner.com So you want to be a novelist? Jennifer Weiner The Littlest Bigfoot – Jennifer Weiner Jennifer Weiner on Twitter Kelton Reid on Twitter The Transcript How Bestselling Author Jennifer Weiner Writes: Part One Voiceover: Rainmaker FM Kelton Reid: Welcome back to The Writer Files. I’m your host, Kelton Reid, here to take you on yet another tour of the habits, habitats, and brains of renowned writers to learn their secrets. The number one New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, Jennifer Weiner, took a few minutes to talk with me this week about the writer’s life, her new memoir, and Revenge of the Nerds. Before her prolific career as a novelist, Ms. Weiner started out as a small town newspaper reporter, before signing her first big book deal for her novel Good in Bed. Since then, her books have spent over five years on the New York Times Bestseller List. She’s had a novel made into a major motion picture, In Her Shoes, starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, contributed op-eds for The New York Times, executive produced a TV series, and published a children’s book. Her latest offering is the memoir Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing. It’s about yearning and fulfillment, loss and love, and a woman who searched for her place in the world and found it as a storyteller. In part one of this file, Jennifer and I discuss how her iconic writing mentors Joyce Carol Oates and John McPhee helped guide her, why 10 years and 10,000 hours in the trenches is par for the course, how working in busy environments boosts your productivity, and great tricks to keep the ink flowing without opening a vein. This episode of The Writer Files is brought to you by Audible. I ll have more on their special offer later in the show but if you love Audiobooks or you’ve always wanted to give them a try, you can check out over 180,000 titles right now at Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. This episode of The Writer Files is also brought to you by Digital Commerce Summit. We’ll have more about that unique event for Digital Entrepreneurs later in the show but you can check out Rainmaker.FM/Summit for all the details on an amazing educational and networking event. We are rolling today on The Writer Files with a very special guest. Jennifer Weiner is joining me today, and I feel honored to have you on today. Your new book is coming out, or just came out, and this podcast is really a show about writers, for writers, and this new book of yours, Hungry Heart, is I think really that. It’s pretty fantastic, and thank you for coming on. Jennifer Weiner: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here and excited to talk about it. Kelton Reid: We usually open the show with kind of getting to know the authors a little bit better, and I think it’s a great place to kind of open. I’m really excited about this book Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing, because it really kind of tracks your origins as a bestselling writer, author, essayist now, memoirist, columnist. You’ve done all these different things. You’ve worn all these different hats. You’ve even done some TV production. How Her Iconic Writing Mentors Joyce Carol Oates and John McPhee Helped Guide Her Kelton Reid: Take us back a little bit, because this book really traces those origins extremely well. It’s hilarious. It’s heartbreaking. It’s got all these fantastic moments that have kind of molded you, I think, into the bestselling author that you are. Maybe for listeners who may not be familiar, take us back a little bit to kind of … I’m really interested in those early days that formed you, but also the Joyce Carol Oates, and Toni Morrison moments of your life which are so fantastic in the book. Take us back a little bit. Jennifer Weiner: The joke in Hungry Heart is that the best gift that any writer can receive is an unhappy childhood. What is less discussed is that this is a gift we’d all return if we possibly could. I am the oldest of four kids, and my parents moved us to this very preppy, very wealthy, very WASP-y kind of enclave in Connecticut, for reasons I’m still not really clear on. I’m like, “Why would you do this?” In my high school class of 400, there were nine Jewish kids, and I was one of them, although if you’re going by size, I was probably one and a half. I was, you know, I was this sort of pudgy, Jewish book wormy, had this like, gigantic vocabulary and no OP t-shirts, or Benetton sweaters, or Fiorucci jeans. Just, like, I was a disaster. I was lonely. I was picked on. I was unhappy. I couldn’t even get other Jewish kids to be nice to me, but I always loved books. And I always had books as my place to go, as my refuge, as my place where I could go hide from the world that was a really, really hard place for me to be. I dreamed about being a writer someday. It was the only thing I wanted. It was the only thing I was good at, and so I graduated from high school, and I went to Princeton, and I was an English major, because that was obviously where you got to read all the great books. And I got to take creative writing classes with some amazing people. As you mentioned, Joyce Carol Oates, and Toni Morrison, and John McPhee, who taught nonfiction writing, but who was, I would say, the most influential professor that I had in terms of teaching writing as craft, and not something where you just sat around and you waited for inspiration to come. You waited for your muse to speak to you. He taught that you worked at it. That you wrote something, and then you re-wrote it, and then you re-wrote it again. And then you showed a draft to a friend, and then you revised it one more time, and then you showed it to your professor, then you re-wrote it after that. It was less like being some artiste, you know? Some beret-wearing hipster in Paris or in Brooklyn, than being like the HVAC guy. You know? It’s like, the vents need cleaning, so you’d be the one down there kind of mucking out the vents. Writing, I was taught, was that kind of labor. Obviously not as physical. My sister always likes to tell me when I complain about stuff, she’s like, “Well, you’re not digging ditches,” which is true, but it’s work. I’m glad that I learned that early on. I’m glad I had very smart people there to sort of demystify the process, and teach me really that the difference, I think, between people who want to write, believe they can write, talk about writing, and the ones of us who actually do go on to get published, a lot of times that’s just sheer persistence and nothing more than that. Kelton Reid: The book, and I’ll encourage listeners to pick it up, because it’s a fascinating window into kind of all these things that I think shaped you, and this memoir, Cheryl Strayed called, “Furiously funny, powerfully smart, remarkably brave.” It is brave. It’s at times hilarious. You’ve got a whole Revenge of the Nerds footnote in there, which I thought was pretty good. Jennifer Weiner: I have such love for and problems with that movie. It’s, like, all my faves are problematic. That especially. That more than anything else. Kelton Reid: I would read a whole op-ed column on Revenge of the Nerds. Jennifer Weiner: I wish I could well maybe I will. Maybe I will write one. Kelton Reid: I think you should. Jennifer Weiner: Somebody needs to make the Omega Mus movie. That some might just be me someday. Kelton Reid: Well, you clearly have a love of all media, and you’ve been shaped by these things, and there are heartbreaking pieces in there. You know, kind of the Princeton days, and kind of being chased down by creditors, which I thought was harrowing and inspiring stuff, so kudos on the new book. Jennifer Weiner: I should make it clear. My dad was being chased down by creditors. Kelton Reid: Yeah, right. I’m sorry. Jennifer Weiner: I was just the poor jerk who had to answer the phone. My credit is excellent. Excellent. Very powerful, and big-ly good. Kelton Reid: We will be right back after a very short break. Thanks so much for listening to The Writer Files. This episode of The Writer Files is brought to you by Audible, offering over 180,000 audiobook titles to choose from. Audible seamlessly delivers the world’s both fiction and nonfiction to your iPhone, Android, Kindle or computer. For Rainmaker FM listeners, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a 30 day trial to give you the opportunity to check them out. Grab your free audiobook right now by visiting Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. I just hopped over there to grab Stephen King’s epic novel 11.22.63, about an English teacher who goes back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK. You can download your pick or any other audio book free by heading over to Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. To download your free audio book today, go to Audibletrial.com/Rainmaker. Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. Well, some would say that we produce incredible live events as an excuse to throw great parties, but that’s another story. We’ve got another one coming up this October in Denver. It’s called Digital Commerce Summit and it is entirely focused on giving you the smartest ways to create and sell digital products and services. To get all the details and the very best deal on tickets head over to Rainmaker.FM/Summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/Summit. Why Ten Years and 10,000 Hours in the Trenches Is Par for the Course Kelton Reid: I thought it was cool, the you know, the Malcolm Gladwell, kind of looking back at the 10,000 hours that shaped you. You were a journalist, you were a small town newspaper reporter. Jennifer Weiner: Freelance writer, trying to get short stories published, yeah. Just, like, 10 years in the trenches, and deep in the trenches. I remember just being, just sick with jealousy when I would read about some 24 year old hotshot being hired by Saturday Night Live, or getting that six figure book deal, and I would just think, like, “Oh, it’s never going to be me. I’m working so hard, and it’s just not going to happen, and I’m going to be in central Pennsylvania for the rest of my life.” Looking back, of course I could not see this at the time, but it was the best thing for me. It was the best thing for me to learn everything I did, and to put in all the time that I did. It was the best thing for me that I was 31 and not 21 when my first book was published, because I don’t think I would have been able to handle it. I don’t think I was ready yet. Kelton Reid: Well kudos. The book is fantastic, and it kind of documents what’s made you this bestselling author, and TV producer, and yeah, definitely cool stuff. Let’s talk about your process. I mean, I’d love to just dig into a little bit more about the writing life. I will point back to your fantastic website, JenniferWeiner.com, and the “For Writers” section I think is notable just because it’s so cool, and in a nutshell, you kind of break down, “So you want to be a novelist …” And these points are, at times, funny, and also maybe cautionary. Jennifer Weiner: Yes, yes. Cautionary is a good way to put it. Kelton Reid: So now that you’ve got this fantastic memoir, this essay collection under your belt, and you’re kind of doing the rounds to promote it, what else do you have in the hopper? I know you’ve just released, also, a kids’ book. Is that right? Jennifer Weiner: Yes. Uh-huh, my first children’s book. It’s called The Littlest Bigfoot. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah. So, what else could you possibly be doing? Jennifer Weiner: Well, I had some pretty good Tweets about the debate last night. The first presidential debate. What I’m working on now is a sequel to the children’s books, so I’m writing Little Bigfoot, Big City, which is going to be the next one in that trilogy, and I m also I have another grown up novel that I am eager to get back to. Kind of waiting to … We’re talking before Hungry Heart goes on sale, and when it does, I’m going to have the 12 city book tour, so I’ve got to get through that. But I’m interested in all of the new places there are to tell stories. All of the new ways there are to do it. I’ve been doing some Facebook Live videos that I’m really enjoying. I did some videos for People, for People.com. I like telling stories, and I think wherever I end up doing that, this is my life’s work. My life’s work. Kelton Reid: Yeah, yeah, cool. Well, let’s talk about your life’s work. How much time per day, when you’re really digging in, are you kind of, like, doing research or reading before you settle in and start clacking away? Jennifer Weiner: Generally, I get up in the morning, and I get my daughters off to school, and I exercise, because if I don’t do that first thing, it doesn’t happen. Then, it’ll be kind of an hour of, like, business. You know, e-mails, phone calls, taking care of social media. Usually by 11:00 or noon I’m kind of settling in for the writing day, and I usually aim for three or four solid hours of writing, which at first I thought made me sound like a slacker. Then, I thought about it, and I’m like, “Okay, but when I was at newspapers, and I was there for eight hours, I wasn’t really writing for eight hours. I was hanging out at the water cooler, or at the fax machine, or having lunch, or on the phone.” All of the things that you get to do in an office, and I no longer have an office. I don’t have any people, so I’m just working. Working away. Kelton Reid: Do you set word counts, or you kind of chasing deadlines, or …? Jennifer Weiner: It kind of depends what I’m working on. I’d say probably 1,000 words a day is a general goal. They can be crummy words. They could be words I’ll chuck the next day when I read them over, but I shoot for 1,000 words. 1,000 words a day. How Working in Busy Environments Boosts Your Productivity Kelton Reid: Very nice. Are you someone who can listen to music while you’re working, or do you like silence? Jennifer Weiner: I can. I don’t need to have it. I’m one of these people that we call women, who has generally learned to work with interruptions, with kids screaming, in coffee shops. I worked in a As you said, I was a newspaper reporter for almost 10 years, so I got used to newsrooms, and there would be people yelling, and there are television sets on, like, blaring CNN. Somebody would have a police scanner on his desk, and that would be going off. I can deal with noise. I can deal with interruption. I’m not one of these, you know, “The room must be silent. It must be cooled to a 67 degree temperature, with a pink noise machine in the corner.” I read these things sometimes, and I’m like, “Who are you? Probably, you’re someone who doesn’t have children, is my guess.” Kelton Reid: Do you ever get out to a café or a coffee shop? Jennifer Weiner: I do. I do some writing in coffee shops. Today, my daughter has ceramics club at school, and that gets out at 4:20, so I’ll probably put my laptop in my backpack and her school is two miles away, so I’ll walk up there, and I’ll park myself in the coffee shop and write until she’s done with ceramics, and then bring her home. Kelton Reid: Cool. Here’s the million dollar question. And I have a feeling I know the answer. Do you believe in writer’s block? Jennifer Weiner: No. I really don’t. Again, I would point to my life as a journalist. You can’t go to your editor and say, “I know that you need me to write that 12 inch story on the sewage board hearing, but alas, my muse has not spoken.” You just write the story. Maybe it’s terrible. Maybe it’s the worst story anybody’s ever read, but you can fix it. I think, I mean Robert Gottlieb’s famous advice is, “If you can’t write, type.” So just type. Just get some word shapes onto the page, and then you’ll have something to work with, you know? You’ve got to start with something. Kelton Reid: I like that one a lot. Well cool, that dovetails perfectly into kind of your work flow. “If you can’t write, type.” Are you working on a typewriter? Jennifer Weiner: No. No. I work on a … I have a Mac. I have a Macbook Air. It’s kind of old, and there’s some food in the keyboard. I’ve worked on laptops. I’ve worked on desktops. I’ve had Macs for the last little while, but I used to have Dell. Again, I’m really not picky. I use Microsoft Word. Like that s my I don’t have Scrivner, or one of those fancy schmancy … It’s just, like, basically rolling a sheet of paper into a typewriter. Great Tricks to Keep the Ink Flowing, without Opening a Vein Kelton Reid: Very nice. Straight to the point. Do you have some organizational hacks that kind of keep you on task that you can share with writers? Jennifer Weiner: I walk a lot. I think a lot of my best thinking happens when I’m walking, and so that’s where I kind of will … If I’m stuck on a plot point, or if I’m thinking, “How would a character say this?” Or, “How would they react in a certain situation?” A lot of times I’ll just, like, walk the dog, or walk myself. Just go for a walk if I get stuck. Sometimes not thinking about it helps. You can just sort of kick it to the back part of your brain for a little while, and cook something, or exercise. I have writer friends who color in those grown up coloring books. And I also, I read somebody else, always leave … When you stop for the day, don’t stop at the end of a sentence. Leave half of a sentence so you’ll just have a place to pick right up the next day. It will just be like, “Oh, okay. Here’s where I was. Now I know I’ve got to finish that sentence.” That will hopefully kick start the next day’s work. Kelton Reid: Yeah, that’s a great trick. I think that was a Hemingway trick, also. I think he talked about doing that one. Jennifer Weiner: Yes. Kelton Reid: A good brain training thing. So you kind of lean into the incubation phase. Do you have some ways to beat procrastination, or are you kind of leaning into it, then? Jennifer Weiner: If I find I’m getting distracted, or if I find I’m finding other things to do, sometimes a change of scenery helps. Sometimes it’s even just, like, getting up, and stretching, and getting away from the keyboard for five minutes. I’m not a huge procrastinator, and I think it’s because I’m not one of these writers that thinks it’s like sitting down and opening a vein. I’m not one of these writers who’s like, you know, “I love having written, but I hate writing.” I like writing. I really, really do. It remains the thing that brings me the most joy and makes me the happiest. I really, I can’t complain about it that much. I feel lucky to be able to do it, and so I really do not have a huge procrastination problem. Kelton Reid: How does Jennifer Weiner unwind at the end of a long writing day? Jennifer Weiner: I beat the children. No. I don’t. Kelton Reid: End scene. Jennifer Weiner: No. Honestly, it’s like, I, you know, I don’t want to … I was going to say, like many women, I have what they call the second shift, where it’s like, you stop your professional work, and then you’re mom. And that’s what I do, but I also have a ton of help, so it’s not like I’m like, “And then I get the groceries, and then I make dinner, and then I wash the dishes, and then I do the laundry.” I have people to do those things. I’m super duper lucky, and I’m able to sort of use my money so that all I get to do with my time is spend time with my children and spend time on my work. That’s how I unwind, is I’m with my kids, and they are both very funny, and smart, and interesting young ladies. The eight year old is hilarious, and the 13 year old is brilliant, and prickly, and really into math and science, and sort of thinks I’m useless in the way of 13 year old daughters everywhere. She’s just like, “Ugh, Mom!” Cue eye roll. People say I’ll get her back in, like, four years, so I’m just watching the clock on that. I’m with my kids, and that’s how I unwind. I watch TV, too. I’m very eager to start the new season of Transparent. Kelton Reid: Ah, yes. I can vouch that it is as good as they say. Thanks so much for joining me for this half of a tour through the writer’s process. If you enjoy The Writer Files Podcast, please subscribe to the show and leave us a rating or a review on iTunes to help other writers find us. For more episodes, or to just leave a comment or a question, you can drop by WriterFiles.FM. You can always chat with me on Twitter @KeltonReid. Cheers. Talk to you next week.

22mins

10 Oct 2016

Rank #20