What I’m Digging Right Now #6

Insecure!

insecure.jpgYou guys, I’m so excited! I found a show I want to binge on. I’m always hearing about bingeing and I’ve only had a few shows that I’ve liked well enough to really want to devour them*. I can’t watch violence or even–sadly–shows with suspense because I’m such a nervous nelly, which rules out a lot of Throne of Games and Bad Breaking.

I know probably a lot of you discovered Issa Rae during Insecure‘s first season or even when she had her Awkward Black girl web series, but I just found about her and I love her and the hilarious and oh-so-easy-to-relate-to character Issa in Insecure. I had to fork over cash for a month’s subscription to HBO, but it’s been well worth it. The only trouble is there are only two seasons and I’m almost all caught up. There’s going to be a Season Three though! Yay! Oh my God, watch it! (after the kids go to bed. You know, because HBO)

*Transparent, Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, Girls

 

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

irby.jpg Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is hella funny, but it also catches you off guard here and there and tells some disarming stories about growing up poor in America.

Speaking of devouring, I’ve read about 2/3rds of this book in the last twenty-four hours and plan to savor the last third as I know it’ll be a while before I read a book this funny and this insightful again.

Here’s a taste: “John was the kind of dude who already looked like someone’s dad; you know what I mean? Like, the kind of dude in mirrored shades who chews bubble gum really hard with his arms crossed over his chest, the kind of perpetually tan, leathery-skin motherfucker who always looks like he’s standing on a sideline somewhere.” See?

Ten-minute Workouts

weight watchers

I stumbled across this 10-Minute Belly, Butt & Thigh Tone ups DVD in the library (What would I do without the serendipity of the library??) and have made the amazing discovery that I can exercise even highly atrophied aspects of my body (belly) if I understand IT WILL ONLY BE FOR TEN MINUTES. Sometimes I even sweat my way through two 10-minute segments in a row. And all in the comfort of my own home. I froze my gym membership for the summer so I can spend money on healthy activities like HBO bingeing (see above).

 

 

Growing Gills

gills.jpg

I discovered Jessica Abel’s work on creativity last year when I got hooked on her podcast Out on the Wire. The focus of the podcast is the process of radio storytellers, but the lessons in narrative and getting the work done are easily applicable to other genres. I bought Growing Gills for only 2.99 as an e-book and I’m linking to the e-book version here even though it’s also available in paperback. The e-book is just such a good deal and makes it easy to connect to the downloadable Growing Gills companion handbook (with helpful exercises). Abel seems to be an indefatigable worker, and at times her productivity advice can feel a little hyper, but she has great strategies for breaking the creative process down into doable chunks and practical ideas for finding your way through every long project’s inevitable “dark forest.”

The way a book has a life of its own

I’m not a huge John Meyer fan, but I’ve always been struck by the recalcitrant joy of these lines from “No Such Thing”:

I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world…

wimd-34And the way that twentysomething narrator wants to stick it to his teachers who used “the real world” as a means to  incite fear echos how I feel about the book promoting advice I felt beaten during book launches: “The first three months of publication are your one chance to get the word out there about your book.” Those words terrified me. Through both my book launches, I continued to teach, freelance write, and be a divorced parent of two. I could only do what I could do to get those books out into the world. It never felt like enough. I always felt guilty and like I’d let my books down because I didn’t drive to every bookstore in the state and shake hands with the booksellers, because I didn’t tour every blog, because I kind of suck at radio interviews.

paperback cover large fileBut since then I’ve come to understand that a book has a life of its own. Sometimes a book goes underground for a while and seems to disappear. But then it pops up. Your book has reached someone and they’re writing to you or they’re writing about your book or your book pops up on a list almost a decade after publication. This month I was so touched to read Nilofer Merchant’s post about how Writing Is My Drink inspired her when she was writing her book The Power of Onlyness. And then 26-Minute writer Amy Lemmon wrote a post about how she keeps going back to Writing Is My Drink and Bustle listed How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed in an article about books born out of Modern Love columns.

And I have to tell you, it feels really nice to know that these books born in 2008 and 2013 have lived on and are still finding their way into readers’ hands. I wanna run through the halls of my high school….

 

 

 

 

 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Amy Lemmon’s 26-Minute Memoir

385px-California_26.svgThe 26-Minute Memoir is back! I have a big backlog of wonderful 26-Minute Memoirs that readers of Writing Is My Drink have sent me over the last two years, and I’m going to start posting them here again. Here to start us back up is a beautiful twenty-six minute piece from Amy Lemmon.

If you’d like to write one of your own, you can read about the 26-Minute Memoir project here.

Amy Lemmon’s 26-minute memoir  (a self-portrait)

I am a mother, a writer, a college professor. I am a caregiver, an amateur cook, a wanna-be tidy-upper, a control freak, a decider who is often indecisive. I am on the run from myself because I am afraid I am not the person everyone thinks I am—a long-suffering parent of a child with a disability (and one without), a passionate reader and writer of poetry and prose, a committed educator always available to students and colleagues. Recently I have added “middle manager” to my self-description and that is one of the areas of which I am most ashamed. I make mistakes, the kind often made by someone whose passion outweighs her power, whose vision overreaches her limits, who refuses to take no for an answer without a reasonable explanation and who does not consider “because _______ says so” to be reasonable.

I am often subjected to the misplaced admiration of friends and acquaintances, along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it”: How do you keep up with scheduling deadlines, respond to emails within 24 hours, manage the care and coordination of fifty-plus teachers of English and Communication Studies, only a handful of them full-time? How do you mentor colleagues new and old, meet with students, field endless complaints and requests from all of the above, go to the endless meetings, meetings, meetings required at every step? And then they see the photos, sadly outdated, of my son and daughter on the corkboard above my desk. “I forget you have this whole other life,” a coworker once said. Sometimes, nay, often, in that office with its view of ever-under-construction Midtown West (aka Hells Kitchen), so do I.

My whole other life is an exercise in stretching, of spreading one layer’s worth of buttercream thinly enough to cover a double-decker cake. There are bare spots and even places where a chunk is missing. I do not have enough for a “crumb layer” and so must cover as best I can, trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that the icing is made with the freshest ingredients, all organic, from scratch. The metaphor crumbles, since my children’s lives and education and health and happiness are much more complex than any cake. My son Bobby entered the world on the last day of November, with Bach playing in the background and the scent of lavender massage lotion overpowered by the smells of a birth, in all its unmedicated messiness. They laid him on my belly, a long lizardy creature the temperature of my own insides, still connected by a still-pulsing cord. We have a blurry photo of this and others of his blurry father blurrily cutting the cord. His father’s unconditional love for him was never in doubt—he wrote “He’s killin’” (a jazz musician’s term) as P.S. to our birth announcement email. For me, that level of commitment came later; it took me a week or two to fall in love with my little son, who cried and cried and would not latch on. We hired a lactation consultant and took the baby to her home in suburban Queens, where she would not let me rest until he nursed. She wrote a plan: If Robert is frantic, calm him first. I persisted despite the pain and we eventually became a “nursing pair.” I pumped at work and he chugged down bottles while I was away.

The story of my son and me is ordinary to the point of boredom; my daughter’s story was different. I have written elsewhere of the birth a scant three weeks after 9/11/01, of the same midwife being on call, of the knowledge of her diagnosis of Down syndrome almost as soon as she was born, of the heartache we felt and the surgery she needed to repair her own heart at age nine months. What I have not written about is the third baby I wanted so badly, the baby their father did not want, the decision that ended a life and, later, a marriage. For it was this decision, or rather the predicament of pregnancy, unplanned at age forty-three, that more than any other pulled thread unraveled the tangled mess we had become.

 

You can read more from Amy Lemmon on her blog here: http://saint-nobody.blogspot.com/

Image | Posted on by | Tagged | 6 Comments

Fans Of New York Times’s “Modern Love” Column Will Fall Head-Over-Heels For These 16 Books

Since October of 2004 readers have been flocking to the New York Times — not for the latest breaking scoop or political analysis (which the daily has been printing since all the way back in September of 1851) but for the Times’ weekly Modern Love col…

Source: Fans Of New York Times’s “Modern Love” Column Will Fall Head-Over-Heels For These 16 Books

Image | Posted on by | Tagged | 4 Comments

Everything You Wanted to Know about Memoir (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Recording of August 5th Memoir Writing Q & A with Theo Pauline Nestor

This event has now passed, but you can listen to the recording by clicking on the video above.

 

Hi All,

I am hosting a (free!) Q & A about writing (and publishing) memoir online this Saturday August 5th at 1pm Pacme (3)ific Time. Please bring any questions you have about memoir, and I’ll answer as many as I can in an hour. If you want to write out your question ahead of time, send it to theonestorprods@gmail.com before Friday at 9pm.

 

Hope you’re having a great summer!

Theo

Can’t make it on Saturday? Register now and I’ll send you a link to the recording after the webinar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image | Posted on by | 1 Comment

What I’m Digging Right Now #5

I love this time of year! My two yearlong classes* have wrapped up, and while I’m still coaching and teaching a few classes, I’m mostly reading, writing, getting my yard under control, and hanging out with friends and family. So, yay!

Here’s what I’ve been digging lately:

Hunger by Roxane Gay

hungerI read Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body in one day. And that was an important day. That was a day when I thought a great deal about what it means to possess a female body. That was a day when I thought about how a single day can change the course of a person’s life. I thought about how the omnipresent threat of violence changes who we are and how we move through the world. I thought about my daughters and I thought about myself.

And since I’ve finished the book, I’ve been thinking about all those things and these haunting lines: “I finally did say no. And it did not matter. That’s what scarred me the most. My no did not matter.” (Page 51).

The lead up to Summer Solstice

solticeThe light! The light! Things just keep getting better and better! The days keep getting longer and longer!

Until June 20th and then….Okay, we won’t talk about that.

Let’s just enjoy the light while we have it!

Noise-canceling headphones

headphonesI recently took Shonda Rhimes’ Television Writing Master Class. Tons of insight into storytelling was packed into that class. Yet, the big takeaway for me was Shonda’s secret for teaching herself to write anywhere: Noise-canceling headphones. She shared that she’s trained herself to write (anywhere! anytime!) whenever she puts her headphones on. I had a hunch headphones might work for me as for a long time I was able to write (anywhere! anytime!) if I simply put my hoodie hood up. Somehow under a hood, I felt like I was under The Cone of Work. Under the hood, no one could interfere with me–not even myself.

My research quickly led me to the conclusion that good headphones can be super expensive. But I decided to splurge and go for some middle-of-the-road (but still, in my mind, very expensive) ones, justifying the expense with ALL the writing I was going to get done (!). I picked these Sony ones  and I have to say I love them. I’m trying to train myself that when headphones are on, I write (Pavlov’s dog!). But I’ve “cheated” a bit and have also worn them at the gym, where they worked really well to block out the super annoying sound of people running really fast and hard on the treadmills. You know the people I mean?

 

The art of Ross Penhall

penhallI’m loving the way Penhall brings my favorite city to life in the luminous and surreal paintings featured in Ross’ Penhall’s Vancouver.

Gorgeous!

 

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessie Klein

51BvNtfqCnL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I hesitated to even take this book out of the library, thinking: Oh, it’ll be another one of those collections where there’s one good essay, one pretty good essay, and the rest is filler. But I took a chance and checked it out. (High stakes gambler at Seattle Public Library!). And guess what? I totally dig 90 percent of the essays in You’ll Grow Out of It. My favorites are “All the Cakes” and “The Cad.” Poignant AND laugh out loud funny!

 

 

 

 

 

*I teach a yearlong memoir manuscript class at Hugo House in Seattle. The next one begins in September. If you’re interested in that class, be sure to register during the Members Only registration period as that class fills fast. I have also taught a yearlong memoir certificate course through the UW’s Professional & Continuing Education department since 2006. Starting in the 2017/18 academic year, UW PCE will  just be offering one Certificate in Writing (rather than individual genre certificates), and I’ll be teaching four different classes for that certificate.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

How to Write a Memoir Book Proposal (That Stands a Chance)

The live class has now passed, but you can still purchase the recording of the webinar and all the supplemental materials by clicking on the PayPal button below.

Despite how tough it can be to break into big-house publishing, a lot of authors—even first-timers—do sell their memoirs as proposals. So how do they do it? What do these magical proposals look like? How do writers convince publishers to buy their memoirs before they’ve even been written?

In the How to Write a Memoir Book Proposal Webinar (July 9th 9am-11am Pacific), I will answer these questions from the perspective of an author who’s sold two memoirs on proposal (see instructor bio below) and walk you through the steps of creating a proposal’s major components. Guest speaker Anjali Singh will be sharing her insights into the business end of the process, speaking from her experience as both an editor who acquired memoir proposals as well as an agent who currently pitches proposals to Big Five publishers (see full bio below). Anjali will share with us the qualities of the memoir proposals that have made her say, “Yes!”

Purchase How to Write a Memoir Book Proposal Webinar registration via Pay Pal (credit cards accepted) now for $49 (limited seating): buy now

The How to Write a Memoir Book Proposal Webinar will cover the following:

  • The content and format of each of the elements of the proposal: Overview, Market Analysis, Sample Chapters, and Outline for Completion:
    • How to write an overview that both grabs attention and clearly describes the book
    • How to generate a credible market analysis
    • How to create an outline that gives a sense of the book’s voice and arc
  • Platform-building steps to take before sending out your proposal that will increase your chances of success
  • Writing an effective agent query letter
  • Avoiding common pitfalls of proposal writing

Webinar participants will receive:

  • A copy of a memoir proposal that sold to a big house publisher
  • Examples of actual query letters
  • A recording of the webinar
  • a Power Point slideshow with detailed instructions for writing a memoir book proposal and querying agents

Webinar format:

90 minutes of instruction and information plus 30 minutes Q &A, in which participants can ask questions of both Theo Nestor and Anjali Singh. Webinar begins 9am Pacific Time on Sunday July 9, 2017.

author photo 4How to Write a Memoir Book Proposal Webinar Instructor: Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (And a Guide to How You Can Too) (Simon & Schuster, 2013) (sold as a proposal!) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over (Crown, 2008) (sold as a proposal in an auction!), which was selected by Kirkus Reviews as a 2008 Top Pick for Reading Groups and as a Target “Breakout Book.” An award-winning instructor, Nestor has taught the memoir certificate course for the University of Washington’s Professional & Continuing Education program since 2006 and also teaches at Hugo House in Seattle. Nestor has produced a number of writing retreats, such as the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat, Bird by Bird & Beyond, and the Black Mesa Writers’ Intensive, featuring talks by writers such as Anne Lamott, Cheryl Strayed, Julia Cameron, and Natalie Goldberg. You can follow her on Facebook here and on Twitter @theopnestor.

anjaliGuest speaker: Literary Agent Anjali Singh started her career in publishing in 1996 as a literary scout. Most recently Editorial Director at Other Press, she has also worked as an editor at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Vintage Books. She is best known for having championed Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis after stumbling across it on a visit to Paris. She has always been drawn to the thrill of discovering new writers, and among the literary novelists whose careers she helped launch are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Samantha Hunt, and Saleem Haddad. Some of her editorial non-fiction projects include Baz Dreisinger’s Incarceration Nations, Diana Abu-Jaber’s The Language of Baklava, Kathy Rich’s Dreaming in Hindi, Minal Hajratwala’s Leaving India, Nuha al-Radi’s Baghdad Diaries, and Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks. She is currently a literary agent at Ayesha Pande Literary, where she recently sold the YA graphic novel, Jabs by Sherine Hamdy and Myra El-Mir, the coming-of-age story of a Muslim-American girl, to Dial Books for Young Readers. She is a member of the International Committee of the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Frequently Asked Questions About Theo’s Teleseminars and Webinars:

How does it work? At 9am Pacific Time on Sunday July 9th, you will log into the GoToWebinar webinar by clicking on the link emailed after payment and registration. Even self-proclaimed technophobes have said they found the user experience of the GoToWebinar classes pretty straightforward.

The logistics: Shortly after you pay the class registration fee, you’ll be sent a confirmation email with a link to register on the Citrix webinar page. Citrix (GoToWebinar) will then send you a link for the course. Just before 9am on July 9th, you will be able to click on the link to enter the class. If you miss the class (or want to watch to it again), the recording will be available for you to watch at your convenience.

What if I miss the class? Shortly after the live webinar has ended, you’ll receive a link to a recording of the webinar, which you can watch anytime.

What if I know I can’t attend the live event but want to ask a question during the Q & A? Register for the class and email Theo your question at theonestorprods@gmail.com.

What if I want to ask a question before I register? Email Theo at theonestorprods@gmail.com.

Can I pay via check, money order, or Square? Yes, email Theo at theonestorprods@gmail.com for instructions.

Can I purchase recordings of Theo’s other webinars via Pay Pal?

Yes!

Shortly after completing your purchase via Pay Pal, you will receive an email with a links to the recordings.

 

  • Purchase the four-class Memoir Essentials Webinar recordings here (includes 4 recordings and 4 Power Point slideshows) for $79 (sales tax included): buy now

 

  • Purchase Writing Is My Drink Webinar recordings: (4) 1.5 hour-long recorded classes (includes 4 recordings and 4 Power Point slideshows) for $49 (sales tax included):buy now

 

 

 

Posted in Memoirists, More Stuff for Writers, Publishing, Webinars, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , , , ,

Last-day-of-School Advice for Writers

My two yearlong classes met for their final class meetings this week. We still have our class readings ahead (Many thanks to University Bookstore and Elliott Bay Book Company), but the classroom work is officially behind us. A number of class members have expressed concern about the loss of structure the classes provide. I remember feeling that same nervousness when I finished my MFA: Would I keep writing without the deadlines assignments provided? Or would I just be sucked into a vortex of life’s mundane demands?

Inspired by attending my older daughter’s commencement at Columbia College Chicago last week (Yay!), I offered my classes some parting tips to quell their anxiousness about continuing their writing practices without the group’s support. Maybe they’ll be of help to you as well.

1. Finish something.

finishYou don’t have to finish everything you write, but you need to take some of your writing all the way to the finish line–and you need to do this soon. Finishing means rewriting. Finishing means revising. Finishing means editing and proofreading. Finishing means sending your work out into the world.

Finishing is hard and scary, which is why we sometimes avoid it and prefer to have a lot of half-cooked documents simmering on our desktop. There’s a risk in finishing. When you call something finished, you’re saying this is the best I can do with this. When we finish and submit our work, we have to face the truth of our limitations. Our work may not always be as good as we wish, but we have to finish these good and mediocre and pretty good pieces, so we can go on to write the next one and the next one. And by writing the next one and the next one, we become better writers.

2. Install deadlines in your life.

deadlineIt’s hard to finish work when no one is waiting for it. Yes, there are a few people out there who can toil away without accountability, but we hate them and they’re not reading this post. Most of us need to work towards a deadline. In The Right to Write,  Julia Cameron writes: “Deadlines create a flow of adrenaline. Adrenaline medicates and overwhelms the censor.”

Take a step today to create deadlines in your life. Sign up for a class. Look for contests, grants, and residencies with upcoming deadlines. Join a writing group with due dates for writing exchanges.

3. Call yourself a writer. See yourself as a writer.

You don’t have to get paid to write to be a writer. You only need to write to be a writer. Call yourself as a writer, if only to yourself. Thinking of yourself as a writer will likely lead to more writing, to setting up your life so you have time to write, to investing in your life as a writer by taking classes and attending writing events.

nat writingAsk a friend to take a photo of you writing (not pretending to write, but actually writing). Keep this photo near your writing space as a reminder of who you are.

4. Follow your curiosity.

Let your interests lead you everywhere and anywhere. Curiosity is one of your most important traits, so don’t squash it. If you want to spend an afternoon diving deep into the arcane, do it. Don’t judge your interests just because they’re not scholarly.  If you’re called to do so, binge on the Beastie Boys, study up on how to achieve the perfectly lined eye, or read all about the life and times of your favorite pop star. Read with abandon and selfish lust. Curiosity fuels vision and voice.

5. Comfort yourself.

Most writers suffer bouts of anxious feelings about writing.  Frustration and exasperation are endemic to the writing life. So it makes sense to plan for how you’re going to comfort yourself during tremulous times. I’ve always had a cache of “comfort books” that I’ve returned to for solace: Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Right to Write by Julia Cameron to name a few. These books remind me to calm the eff down. To breathe. To chill the eff out. And to keep writing. In fact, these books have meant so much to me that I wrote a comfort book of my own: Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice and A Guide to How You Can Too).

wimd-34

 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments