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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The One About the Book Deal

So a couple of months ago a brilliantly smart literary agent from New York emailed me out of the blue. She said she'd been reading my blog, she enjoyed my writing, and would I be interested in writing a book?

Yes, I said. Yes, yes, yes. I am interested. I was born interested in writing a book.

Me in front of the house I'll buy with the never-ending royalties I'll earn from my book of hilarious chubby sports stories

In fact, back in 1974 when I was deep into my "Little House on the Prairie" phase I told people I was going to be a writer when I grew up. My mom said writers didn't make a lot of money, and maybe I should think of a back up plan, just in case.

So I eventually went to college and got degrees in Fine Arts and English. Then I taught drama for a while, and then through a series of unrelated events I've ended up being a self-proclaimed Twitter Maven who makes weird videos with her mannequin.

I fail at backup plans, apparently.

My mom also told me that Laura Ingalls Wilder was dead, when I said I needed her address so I could write her a fan letter. Hey, before you get all huffy, my mom isn't a dream killer, she's just practical.

So when the pixie dust wore off that first email the agent sent (I should really print it out and frame it...maybe send it to my mom for Christmas?) I sent her an email back that said "I want to write a book, but I can't figure out what to write about. Can you help me?"

Yes, she said. I'll help you, which made me so happy that I decided I need to go out and buy her a present. Which I will do. Soon.

And so began a series of emails flowing with ideas and sample stories sent off for her review, and honest answers and enduring patience (on her part.) After a few tangents and round-abouts, we came back to this blog and the funny little fitness stories, which aren't always about the actual thing I'm writing about, but about the bigger things I'm thinking about.

Finally, I came up with an idea she thought might fly, and she said I needed to write my first three chapters so she has something to start pitching to a publisher. She's sold a few best sellers and she seems to know what she's doing (of course I Googled her.)

This will be a piece of cake, I thought. I'll have those chapters done in a week, and then she can sell the book by Christmas, and then I'll plow through the rest of the chapters in a month or so, and then I'll see my finished paperback at Costco this Spring. No sense dragging this whole thing out.

And wouldn't it be funny if I don't tell my family about the publication date, but I just casually say to the kids when we're at Coscto buying huge bags of broccoli, "Let's go look at the new books...oh my goodness! Look at this, it's MY book!" and then I'll buy 100 copies and hand them out at Thanksgiving and as door prizes at Tweetups.

Well, it turns out this whole writing a book thing is harder than it looks. I worked on one chapter for days and days and it's still not right. It's just not that funny.

I gave it to a friend to read and she said she liked it, and that it was kind of David Sedaris like. I'm going to buy her a present just for saying that, but the truth is, it's NOT Sedaris-like. At all. Because it's not funny. And it's sort of boring. And it's driving me crazy, trying to fix it.

So then, another friend who's published a few books of his own said "Stop writing that chapter! Move on to the next one. Maybe it will be funny." Which was very smart advice, so now I have to buy him a present too. And I also have to start writing that chapter. Which I will. Soon. Maybe after I finish this post, even. Or tonight.

I realize all these presents I have to buy are eating into my future advance that I may or may not get, for a book I have not written, that may or may not get sold. But they're worth it, I think, because if I don't get feedback from people, this book will just sit in the back of my brain forever.

And one thing I've learned so far is there's no way anyone, even a brilliant agent, can sell a book that is just a series of nice little ideas in my head. I have to write them down. So I have to keep trying, not crying. It's like saying I'm a runner, but not actually running. Eventually, someone calls me on it, and I put on my shoes and go. And voila - more blog fodder.

Also, I've learned that David Sedaris is doing the rest of us writers a disservice by making it look so easy. I mean, sure, he has much better material to work with than I do (if I were a gifted, Greek, angsty gay man living in New York City and Paris with a lovely partner named Hugh, this book would be much easier to write, believe me) but when you read his stuff, you think "Hey, he just sat down and started talking into his typewriter and now he's selling millions of books, how hard could it be?"

Thanks Mr. Sedaris. Thanks a lot. You're so not helping me and my fragile writer ego, here. But if you can give me some pointers I will definitely buy you a present, too.


17 comments:

Fitarella said...

You're awesome. and very funny. and I'd like a present too ;)

Karin Bartimole said...

Congratulations!! and if your book writing is anything like this post, I'm sure it will keep your readers laughing and reading all the way through! Best to you, Karin

Sarah Bellum said...

I want a tee-shirt that says:

David Sedaris--Ruining the lives of writers since 1992.

I probably won't buy your book because Costco and I are in the middle of a huge break-up. I will, however, attend a Tweet-up to get one.. but only if there are cupcakes too.

mugmkr said...

My sister has had a wonderful collection of her short stories published about 6 years ago to high acclaim in Canada. She has been writing her first novel ever since. At first she wanted the family not to ask how it was going. Then, she wanted us to ask. I have not heard how it is going the past couple of years, I've figured I'm either doing the right thing by not asking, or I'm on her list for not asking. It sure as hell would help if she sent a gift so I knew I was doing the right thing, in the askable sense. So kudos to you with the gifts. That way people know they are doing the right thing. (If I don't get a gift from you, well, I'm sure I'll figure it out!)

Wendy said...

I'm just here for the presents.

Edgemaster Mobile Sharpening said...

Hi Julie, we haven't met but I admire your work. I too, would like to write a book. I have found, however, that I lack the sticktoitiveness to follow one or several stories through to their climatic end. So, a novel is out for me.

A friend of mine is writing her 10th? 11th? Romantic novel. Another friend is collecting her works and honing them into something readable by the masses.

I'm great at editing, giving advice, saying ye or nay, should you need an objective voice.

But I wholeheartedly support everyone who chases their dream of writing. It is the one thing that has hardly ever changed. Books are still books, no matter how they're put together.

Write. Rewrite. Write some more. It's what a writer does. So do it.

- Darren

juliejulie said...

You guys are the best commenters in the whole world. Thanks.

Sarah, there will most definitely be cupcakes. As soon as I get my stories to be funny, I'll send you all presents. Most likely David Sedaris T-Shirts.

Chef said...

Maybe you should have Franice help you with it. Lots of people write with their pets, but I don't know of anyone that writes with their mannequin.
Tammy

Greg said...

If your book came off like this blog, problem would be solved! Great article. ;-) But that's actually the whole crux of it I guess... when you go to do the booky-writey, you become all booky-writey instead of bloggy-writey. Bad Julie.

David Sedaris. I want to be smug and pretentious and say, "He's overrated" (which he is), but being overrated is only an insult when what you really mean is, "Meh, I don't rate him," rather than, "He's wicked-awesome and I love every damn second of his writing... but jeeziz, he's not the God of Writers."

So yeah. Sedaris is great.

But Julie, you are also great! If you can break the code for not trying to be great (and I know you're working at it already!), then it'll just come naturally. Your awesome greatness that is.

Annie said...

How many people can count a manequin as a best friend...sorry Francine. I am sure David doesn't have a manequin...oh wait that was my favorite movie, Lars and the Real Girl. You have it within you...just let it burp up!

memoirsandhalftruths said...

I really loved this! I'm a blogging neophyte and so glad I found yours to read. You ARE very funny! Marie

Anonymous said...

Unequivocally, a prompt reply :)

Theresa Milstein said...

There's worse things than being compared to David Sedaris, even if you're not feeling it. Just keep on writing and rewriting.

Congratulations on the offer of a book. I've been trying for a few years to get an agent and a contract, but so far, no luck.

I began writing a blog in early September, and it's a completely different animal than writing 50k manuscripts.

Good luck.

chocolate and whine said...

This made me laugh. Can I have a present?

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juliejulie said...

I bet that sexy lady escort spammer and the Japanese writing lady are pals, whaddya think?