Episode 163: #BookTourReality Mary Laura Philpott tells all. It’s glorious. It’s embarrassing. Nobody told you you’d be sitting on a barstool in front of a crowd in a short skirt.

Mary Laura Philpott is the author of I Miss You When I Blink, a book with the most awesome subtitle ever: Essays. That’s it. Here’s a little something she wrote on subtitles and why we love to hate them, from LitHub.

We’ve been following her book launch (check back to Episode 150, #NeverReady) and now, her triumphant tour. Or maybe not so much and certainly not all the time.

Links to some of the fantastic Indies who hosted Mary Laura:

Whistlestop Bookshop

Books Are Magic

M. Judson Bookseller

Word Bookstore in Brooklyn and New Jersey

Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, NC

The Snail on the Wall Huntsville, AL

Politics and Prose Washington, DC

Books and Books, Florida

#AmReading

City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert

#FaveIndieBookstore

And finally, no interview with Mary Laura would be complete without a shoutout to her favorite Indie–and her beloved employer–Parnassus Books in Nashville.

Find out more about our guest, Mary Laura Philpott, here —and check out her latest book, I Miss You When I Blink, on IndieBound or at Libro.fm.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Episode 161 #WritingAtMyNightmare with Shane Burcaw: You thought writing was hard? Try doing it with no muscles.

Shane Burcaw is the author of three books: Laughing at My Nightmare, the picture book Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability, and his new book, Strangers Assume My Girlfriend is My Nurse. Shane and his girlfriend, Hannah Aylward, host the YouTube channel, Squirmy and Grubs, with nearly 400k subscribers. Their YouTube channel reads: “Once upon a time, a boy with no muscles fell madly in love with a beautiful girl who had plenty of muscles to spare. The townsfolk gasped with horror at the sight of their disgusting interabled relationship, but they didn’t care.”

Kirkus calls Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse, “An accessible, smart-assed, and unexpectedly tender exploration of life, love, and disability.”

We talked about the how of writing for Shane, (which included a shout out to the Remote Mouse App) but even more about the why–and why Jess’s students in particular (along with many many others) have loved Shane’s books since his first. Think “trademark acidic wit” which is also fully present here.


Shane’s nonprofit, Laughing at My Nightmare, funds adaptive technology for people with muscular dystrophy: https://www.laughingatmynightmare.com/

Squirmy and Grubs on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdomP1JqhnyBQGaBmfDl4KQ

Shane’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shaneburcaw/?hl=en

Shane’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/shaner528?lang=en

Hannah’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hannahayl/?hl=en

#AmReading

This Is Not a Love Scene, S.C. Megale

A Season of Dragonflies, Sarah Creech

Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal About Generation Z’s New Path to Success, Shalini Shankar

#FaveIndieBookstore

Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, where they mix chickens and lizards in with books for kids and young adults.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Episode 162: #HalfwaytoGoal? A mid-year goal check in. We all had plans for the year–how’s that working out for Jess and KJ?

In Episode 140, we set our 2019 goals. (Listen here). Now, at 2019’s halfway mark, it’s time to check in on those–and we’d love to hear how you’re doing on your goals in the #AmWriting Facebook group. Halfway here? More? En route? Revising the endgame? We get it all.

Jess, in particular, gets moving the goal posts–and in fact, the whole point of a check in is to consider doing just that. Goals aren’t there to help you fail, they’re there to help you move towards them–and if a goal is unreachable this year, it’s time to set a goal you can achieve that moves you in the right direction. For Jess, that’s a new, revised book deadline.

I’m reporting a big fat checkmark on one goal–finding a publisher for my novel (hello, Episode 147). The Chicken Sisters will be out in the summer of 2020, and the new goal I’m slotting in there is to finish my revisions on time.

One bonus to the mid-year review is realizing that while you probably haven’t checked something off yet, you really have been moving the dial. We did some math in January and realized that we’ve spent $10,000 producing #AmWriting between us (that was a bit of a shock). With one fantastic sponsor, we’re on our way to, if not getting paid for our time, at least not paying to podcast, but we’re still working on this one. We’ve asked, and you all have resoundingly said you’d like to sponsor us yourselves (no mattress ads for us!). We’re more than halfway to offering a way to do just that.

I love a good midyear goal review because revising goals and recommitting to them feels like a fresh start at the beginning of a season when I do like to slow down a bit–but not TOO much. I refined some personal goals, and made sure that my calendar allows for staying on track when it comes to the professional ones–but that I’m also not putting so much on my plate that I can’t enjoy the summer when it finally gets here.

And then–it will be time for another re-grouping in the fall.

#AmReading

Jess: The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, Leslie Jamison

KJ: The Collected Schizophrenias, Esme Wang

#FaveIndieBookstore

The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, VT–a favorite of us both, a reliable source of favorites the minute you walk through the door and a fantastic host of events. And a reminder–when you just HAVE to order that book right now before you forget, it’s quite likely you can do that right on your fave Indie’s website and then pick it up in the store–where you’ll have the opportunity to buy more books.

We love our sponsor! If you’re not quite where you want to be on your writing goals for the year—or suspect that after this summer, you might be a wee bit behind—join us and our sponsor, Author Accelerator for the Find Your Book, Find Your Mojo retreat in Bar Harbor, Maine from September 12-15, 2019. Now is the perfect time to get this on the calendar so that the inevitable August slowdown will just be the lead-up to your big fall fresh start. 

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship, and The Secret Library, an interview podcast about real people who made time to write, often against the odds, because they believe that books matter. Find both on iTunes or on your podcast player of choice.

Episode 160 Dave Cullen #10MonthsfromStarttoDeadline The Parkland author on everything you ever wanted to know and pitching and writing a topical nonfiction book at top speed (and going broke doing it)

We talked to Dave Cullen, about writing Parkland: Birth of a Movement, in ten months while he was 3 years overdue on his current book.

“I’m just not gonna tell Gail,” he said of his editor when he took the first assignment from Vanity Fair–but there was something going on with the Parkland students that grabbed him, and he–with the help of his agent, Betsy Lerner–grabbed it.

“I just had to.”

He describes the process of writing the book, how the length, plan and due dates evolved–and how he almost went broke doing it.

#FaveIndieBookstore

Dave’s #FaveIndieBookstore is Books & Books in Miami Beach, FL. “It was the only store I specifically asked to visit on my tour.”

#AmReading

A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin 

Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Letham

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

159 #StoryGenius Lisa Cron on why backstory isn’t backstory. It IS the story.

To talk to Lisa Cron is–unless you’ve already read Story Genius or Wired for Story–to possibly flip everything you thought you knew about story–fiction, nonfiction, short, long, whatever–onto its head.

Story, she points out, isn’t plot. It isn’t what happens, and then what happens next, and then what happens next. It’s the why behind those happenings. It’s not, well, a spaceship just landed on the green in front of the library, and I’ll either a) rush towards it or b) head for my car.

It’s WHY I do those things. It’s not just what I do next, but what it is about me, now the main character in this rather stressful tale that may end with us all being the entrees on some giant interstellar menu, that makes me make the no doubt terrible choices that I make (good choices make bad books). And that’s my backstory. Which brings me to one of the many, many quick-write-that-down moments in this episode.

Backstory isn’t backstory. It IS the story. It informs every line of every page, every decision, every “because of this, then that,” right up until the end, when whatever screwed me up in the first place becomes something I can overcome in order to win the aliens over and persuade them that we’re not tasty after all (before I fry them with my laser gun and it’s alien nuggets for everyone, with a variety of dipping sauces).

Our guest, Lisa Cron, is the author of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel* [*Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere] and Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. She also contributed to Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published.

#AmReading

Jess sings the praises of The Lewis Trilogy, Peter May

Lisa recommends Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng

KJ is still finishing her favorite novel of this year so far, There’s a Word for That, Sloane Tanen.

#FaveIndieBookstore

Book Soup, Los Angeles

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Episode 158: #WhySticker Why setting the goals and keeping them matters, plus lots of vague-dissing on books that didn’t work and the best novel KJ’s read this year so far.

Kj here, with a confession: I’ve been lying to myself

Letting myself off the hook.

Not keeping my butt in the chair and my head in the game.

I mean, sure, I had lots of excuses. I’ve been traveling or doing intense farm stuff since April 12. That’s almost a month with–count them–only two days of being entirely home without travel or a major, all-day farm commitment. So okay then. Some of those days I called it. I knew I wouldn’t get anything done on my next book, and I didn’t.

Some of those days I had a reasonable plan. Open the file. Stay with the work. That’s all.

But SOME days… some days I futzed around. I kept moving the needle. I let myself quit because “I’m really not focusing” or “this isn’t getting anywhere” and although I had time to do something, and plans to do something, I didn’t manage to do anything.

So here’s the thing about goals, and getting your daily (or 5 days a week, or 6 days a week) sticker: the achievement needs to be hard, but do-able.

Something that will pull you alll the way in and ask something of you. Something that will measurably move the dial.

If your sticker goal doesn’t demand that you say no to some things–no to lunch, maybe, or no to taking a walk on the nice day, or no to a child who wants but doesn’t exactly NEED a ride somewhere–in order to say yes to the goal, then the goal isn’t high enough. Because it’s the saying no that makes you, as Steven Pressfield would say, a pro. It’s the saying no that means you’re saying yes to yourself as a serious person with work that needs to get done, whether there’s anyone else waiting for that work or not.

You’re waiting.

I’m waiting.

So this is my declaration of re-intent. My “sticker” for the next 30 days (at a minimum) is 1000 words. No shortcuts, no lowered goals. SOME DAYS I MIGHT NOT GET A STICKER–but there will be no participation awards. No A-for-effort.

It’s sticker or nothing around here, baby. And that’s #WhySticker.

Other links in the episode:

The Secret Library Podcast, episode 147: Martine Fournier Watson
What happens when your editor asks you to change a major plot point?

The famed 2-tier outline process at Author Accelerator.

#AmReading

Chasing Cosby, Nicole Weisensee Egan

The best novel KJ’s read yet this year (drumroll please):

#FaveIndieBookstore

Book People Austin, TX

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Episode 157: #ExcitedAboutWords chatting with Nicole Blades about the pros and cons of skipping an agent, using rejection as fuel, and the joys of the writer community.

Nicole Blades is a Podcaster (Hey, Sis! Podcast), Author of Have You Met Nora?, The Thunder Beneath Us, & Earth’s Waters  –and this is a glorious episode, recorded live and in person at Mom 2.0, in which we really capture the joy of writing, of finding your novel, of getting to do what we do.

We also get into Tall Poppies, the writer’s sharing group (I’m not sure what to call it) started by Ann Garvin, which also includes the Bloom  

website. I’ve been seeing this crew ALL OVER Insta this week, sharing each other’s books like crazy, and I love it. It’s a formalizing of the writer’s community we all love and dream of and hopefully have (and we DO–it’s called the #AmWriting Facebook group, and while we may not formalize the sharing of each other’s work, we sure do do it).

And I say, as I so often do, that one of my favorite things about being a writer is that it’s so easy and wonderful to share and celebrate each other. Because for one thing, we’re all in this because we love books and good writing. And for another, nobody who likes books ever just bought one book.

Other links mentioned in the episode:

Steven Pressfield

BookPeople, Austin, TX

#AmReading

Daisy Jones & The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Accidentals, Sarina Bowen

Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon

My Father’s Stack of Books, Kathryn Schulz

Chase Darkness With Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders, Billy Jensen

The Other Americans, Laila Lalami

#FaveIndieBookstore

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Nicole’s #FaveIndieBookstore is Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY   “Even though I now live in Connecticut, I still feel like I can own this bookstore. Because … Books Are Magic

Find out more about our guest, Nicole Blades, here — and check out her latest book, Have You Met Nora? here or at Libro.fm.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Episode 156: #WhenFansPay Talking to Lyz Lenz about using Substack and a subscriber model to get paid for your work

It’s hard enough to start a subscriber email. But what if you asked your fans to pay for it? It’s so crazy it just might work.

Hello from the Mom 2.0 conference, where Jess and I just did a panel on Launching a Speaking Career. More on that in an upcoming episode–but meanwhile, this one’s a real thought-provoker. Most of us struggle with what’s a good use of our time in our writing careers. We’ve talked a lot about the value of an email subscriber list when it comes to selling books and sharing your work–but what if the email is your work, or becomes a way to share your work?

Journalist Lyz Lenz uses Substack to share a largely subscriber-only email with a group of readers/fans whose financial support has helped to carry her through the ups and downs of a freelance career.

Other links mentioned in the episode: 

Lyz Lenz’s Contently

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, Roxane Gay

Ann Friedman’s Newsletter

#AmReading

Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, Dani Shapiro

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson

Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Mark Bowden

The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation, Mark Bowden

#FaveIndieBookstore

Lyz Lenz’s fave is Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Bart knows all the local gossip and has always been a great supporter of my work.”


Find out more about our guest, Lyz Lenz, here—and check out the first of the TWO books she’s working on this year, God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss and Renewal in Middle America on IndieBound.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template (the one KJ swears by).

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Episode 155 #GetUnstuck with Uber-Coach Jennifer Louden

Jennifer Louden is a personal growth and creativity coach who’s appeared or been quoted everywhere from the Oprah to Brene Brown’s books. Her mantra is claim your voice, share your voice and get your shit done, and her specialty is helping people get unstuck–as writers, creative people and as people in general.

We talk to Jennifer about exactly that–what do you do when you’re feeling stuck in your career or your work? Listen to hear her go deep into the topic, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Ask yourself–what is it about this work that really lights you up, and how can you blow on that spark to get your fire lit?

When you’re focused on a goal off of your to-do list, give yourself a reminder of that spark as well. You want to achieve the goal–but why?

Find your enough, and work with that rather than continually raising the bar on yourself. Plan your days to allow you to feel like you’ve done your enough for the day, and let yourself appreciate that success rather than rushing on to the next thing.

#AmReading

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, Tara Brach

Chris Grosso

Nora Ephron

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Clarissa Pinkola Estes

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

#FaveIndieBookstore

Jennifer Louden’s fave is Boulder Book Store in Boulder, CO. “They do a fantastic job of making recommendations and have a whole Shambhala Publications section and a Sounds True Publishing section.”

Find out more about our guest, Jennifer Louden —and check out her latest book, A Year of Daily Joy: A Guided Journal to Creating Happiness Every Day, or on IndieBound.

A Guide to Creating Your Own Writing Retreat

What to do when your book won’t work: Maybe Failure Is Just Another Word for Compost.

Jennifer Louden is known for her retreats–and you can still retreat with her virtually, but her in-person retreats are sold out for 2019! But you CAN still join us for an in-person retreat in September, 2019, hosted by our sponsor, Author Accelerator. Come work with KJ and Jennie Nash to find your book and find your mojo on Bar Harbor Maine–and get a re-start after that inevitable, glorious summer slow down. More Information here.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Episode 154 #MathandDictationAreFun: demystifying calculus and replacing your keyboard with dictation (some of the time)

Math storyteller Steven Strogatz makes both calculus and dictation seem approachable and fun. #notkidding

Jess, we learn, was told in an early math class not to give up her day job, and so she gave up on math—until she found Steven Strogatz, whose writing puts a human, topical, understandable face on numbers from algebra to calculus, and glories in seeing “the math in everything”. If you’re the master of a topic that seems too narrow, academic or wonky for a larger audience, consider finding fresh ways into the subject—or “every way,” says Strogatz. If you can’t relate to one analogy, he’s ready with another, and it’s that willingness to try multiple ways to get his ideas across that’s made his work popular.

Strogatz is a teacher first, writer second (now you know why he and Jess bond)—and he uses dictation to find his way into a more natural voice in his writing in the simplest way possible: he holds his phone up to his mouth while he walks the dog and talks into his notes app, the one where you just press the little microphone button on the iPhone.

I’ve tried this (this is KJ) and it makes me crazy, because I struggle not to watch the words come out and correct them. For Strogatz, though, the opposite is true. “It helps me get around my OCD tendencies,” he says. “If I’m writing on a keyboard and see the words, my immediate instinct is to start deleting them.”

#AmReading

Educated, Tara Westover

The Tangled Tree, David Quammen

Inheritance, Dani Shapiro

Dead Wake, Erik Larson

#FaveIndieBookstore

Steven Strogatz’s Fave is Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY. It’s his local–“I was just in there last week. You just feel surrounded by great books.” Buffalo Street Books is a co-op! Members join and get dividends, year-end profit-sharing (I’m guessing they’re not getting rich there, but still) and–best of all–their local bookstore is still alive and kicking.

Find out more about our guest, Steven Strogatz, here — and check out his latest book, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, on IndieBound or at Twitter.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s 2-tier outline template.

Find more about Jess here, and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.