Episode 104 #TheFullProposal - #AmWriting
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A good nonfiction proposal isn’t just a pitch to publishers. It’s a roadmap for a writer and an editor, and a promise that you’re writing the book you want to write and the book they want to publish.

In this episode—one of our top four—Jess is finally able to share the details of her second non-fiction book deal and the path to getting there, which included months of drafting to craft a proposal for her next project (a book about addiction in teenagers). Nearly every nonfiction book starts as an amorphous idea, and the proposal is what helps take it to the next level. Maybe you want to write a book about tennis. Is it a how-to guide? An upping your skill book? A memoir of your tennis career, a meditation on how tennis serves as a metaphor for a life well-lived, a book for parents determined to raise the next Serena Williams? Maybe you could write all of those books, but chances are you only want to write one. And sometimes, when you work on a proposal, you realize you don’t want to write any of them. Other times, a hazy proposal is read by an editor as offering one, when what you really planned to write was very much another.

In other words, a good proposal can save your butt—and serve as a guide to writing the book your editor expects to see. Here’s some of our best advice for getting there.

Photo in episode illustration by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)

KJ:                                00:00                Is it recording?

Jess:                             00:01                Now it’s recording.

New Speaker:               00:02                Yay.

Jess:                             00:02                Go ahead.

New Speaker:               00:03                This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone and try to remember what I was supposed to be doing. All right, let’s start over. Awkward pause. I’m going to rustle some papers. Okay. Now one, two, three.

KJ:                                00:20                Hey, I’m KJ Dell’Antonia,

Jess:                             00:21                and I’m Jess Lahey.

KJ:                                00:22                And this is #AmWriting,

Jess:                             00:24                with Jess and KJ.

KJ:                                00:25                #AmWriting is our podcast about all things writing. Long things, short things, book proposals, entire books, short articles, blog posts, whatever we can think of. And as I think most of you know, #AmWriting is really the podcast about sitting down and getting the work done.

Jess:                             00:48                That is correct. And I am Jess Lahey and I am the author of the Gift of Failure and some journalism that’s out there if you Google me. All over the place, the Atlantic and the and the New York Times and I’m soon to be the author of a new book. It’s so exciting, which is one of the things I get to talk about today. It’s been one of those code things we’ve been talking around for almost a year now.

KJ:                                01:12                Coming shortly, the big reveal, Jess’s next project. I am KJ Dell’Antonia I am the former editor and lead writer for the New York Times Motherlode blog. I am the author of the forthcoming How To Be a Happier Parent. Working on fiction now, writer of many things. And the best way to figure out what is going on with me is to go to followkj.com and do what it says.

Jess:                             01:37                Here’s a question for you. Speaking of that follow KJ, what’s the difference between follow KJ and these Tiny Letter things that people put out there? Do you know?

KJ:                                01:48                So Tiny Letter is really, it’s a weekly email, just like anything else. If you use tiny letter, the program, it’s a simpler feeling program, than the bigger ones like MailChimp or Constant Contact or something like that. But the result from the reader perspective is exactly the same. I called mine a tiny letter for a while because I felt trendy and cool with it. But really I was using MailChimp, which incidentally owns Tiny Letter.

Jess:                             02:16                Interesting, sorry to put you on the spot. But I realized this morning I signed up for (I happen to love the show Billions and someone does one of those like, ‘Oh my gosh, did you watch Billions last night?) I signed up last night – and actually there’s two things I want to talk about and it was a Tiny Letter thing. But the other thing was that at one point we talked about putting validation (I’m not a robot, captcha things) on there to make sure you’re not getting robots in your list. This one had me identify pictures that had cars or street signs in them and verify I’m not a robot, and do the email, please activate your email username. So it was a three part validation to their newsletter. They’re not getting any robots, I don’t think.

KJ:                                03:07                Mine is gonna have to to amp up because I am still getting robot sign ups. It’s a problem. Both because it just sort of artificially makes you not understand your numbers and secondly you pay by the signup. Sometimes I suspect my provider of being the robots, but that’s not fair. I have figured out where they come from and I will be doing something about it shortly.

Jess:                             03:30                And therein lies the difference between people who are just interested in reporting big numbers and people who actually care that there are people interacting with their content.

KJ:                                03:38                Well, I also care that the price for sending out my email doesn’t go up by like hundreds of dollars every month – so I can send it to robots.

Jess:                             03:46                How did you know you had robots?

KJ:                                03:48                They’re pretty obvious. If you look at the people that are signing up they don’t look like people. They sign up multiple times and their names are like John Chew, John Chew meaning and not like J – O – H – N – C – H – E – W, they’re like random. And then the first and the last names are the same and the the email addresses don’t match. Like if I got a John Chew, John Chew, but the email address was johnchew@gmail.com, I’d be like, okay. John, nice to have you. You can tell them.

Jess:                             04:24                Sarina and I both did a quick audit after you reported you had robots and mine I think are all real people.

KJ:                                04:30                They’re coming from a specific flaw in my signing up thing that I’m about to have fixed as I have my website redone. In anticipation of my forthcoming book, How To Be a Happier Parent.

Jess:                             04:48                This is going to be so much fun because I realized last night when I was thinking about it, that I first texted you and Sarina with the idea for this book when I was on a drive to Boston almost a year ago. It’s been a solid nine months ago and this idea has evolved. And for me it was really frustrating for a while because I kept sending ideas for proposals to my agent. She kept saying, ‘That’s nice.’ She kept saying ‘It’s close.’ But every time she said it, I knew she was right. They felt like, ‘Oh, I need to be writing something next.’ And then I was driving down to Boston and I had this kablooey moment – I thought about even pulling over I was so excited. And I realized that the thing that I’ve spent the past four and a half years on has been teaching drug and alcohol addicts, kids. I am a recovering alcoholic, my kids have addiction on both sides of their family, like big tree ornaments hanging off all over the place. And the stuff I talk about in Gift of Failure is very much about finding your voice and figuring out who you are as a person. And I love talking about prevention in kids. I love talking about trauma informed teaching, I love talking about ACE scores (which are Adverse Childhood Experience) and all this stuff kind of came together and turned into a big idea. So I just sold (finally after nine months) my new book. Right now it’s called the Addiction Innoculation to my editor at Harper and it’s been nine months.

KJ:                                06:52                But just to be clear, she didn’t sell a book, she sold the proposal. So this has been nine months from idea for proposal, through writing proposal, through rewriting proposal, through rewriting proposal again and again, and honing. I mean you now are able to sort of tell the story of what it is you’re going to write about really clearly. But when you started you couldn’t, there were gaping flaws.

Jess:                             07:20                Well, and not only that, in the first version it wasn’t clear to me and it is a truism. At least from my perspective, I really do think writing the proposal is in many ways harder than writing the book. Let me start from the beginning. I have a publisher, Harper Collins, Harper Books, and I love, love, love my editor Gail Winston. She’s amazing and has stuck through me through some really hard stuff. And I want to work with Gail. That said, I also knew I was going to write this book. So Gail has what’s called an option on my next book. She has an option not just on my next book, she has an option on my next nonfiction. So what that means is that I have to show my publisher my next book first. And they have a certain amount of time to think about whether or not they want to buy it. And they could say no, they could offer a totally reasonable amount, they could offer a low ball amount. And then I have some decisions to make about do I want to try to get more money or if they said no altogether, do we just go out and go to another publisher? And this is one reason I’m so appreciative for our agent who pushes me harder than just about anyone I’ve ever met because she said, ‘Well, are you going to write this book even if Gail says no?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ And she said, ‘Well, let’s not mess around with what we would normally do for a publisher that has an option on a book. Normally what you do is write sort of an introduction/overview and your chapter summaries. So that your editor can have a pretty clear idea of what your next book might look like. But knowing that I was going to go straight out with it if Gail said no, we decided to do the full on full smash. I believe in the end, 70 page, full-on book proposal.

KJ:                                09:22                And this is not a cheater proposal. Even if you’re writing a proposal and it’s not for an editor with an option, you could totally do kind of a cheater proposal where you’re pretty sure this is how I’m going to write this, but I haven’t really tested the transitions between the chapters. I haven’t really pushed myself out to my maximum. I haven’t gotten down into the depths where it’s I’m miserable, this hurts. I can’t do this bit anymore. And if you don’t get down in there, well then you’re probably going to be getting down in there when you write the book.

Jess:                             09:59                The other side of it is you can fully test out that stuff. So in the end, what I ended up writing – when I say full proposal – I mean table of contents, overview, introduction. Who the heck am I? Because this could be going out to lots of people who don’t have any idea who I am. I had to do a whole new platform and marketing and promotion section. What was so funny is if I was just doing it for Harper, I could say, you already know who I know, you know what my platform looks like, you’ve spent the past four or five years talking about my platforms.

KJ:                                10:35                Does it feel useful having it? I know the book part, yes. But how about the platform part? Does that feel useful, too?

Jess:                             10:41                Yeah. You know why?

KJ:                                10:42                No, I don’t know why. Please tell me why.

Jess:                             10:45                Because now I get to hand it to you and it’s extremely useful for you, too.

KJ:                                10:50                But is it useful for you? I mean, I love being the beneficiary…

Jess:                             10:54                I am extremely organized about my media contacts, but in a way that could be hard for anyone but me to understand them because I file in mail. So, in my email program, I have files for every show, podcast, interview I’ve ever done. So it could be really hard for someone else to parse that out. And so it was really great for me to sort of figure out who are these people and are they still working for the organizations that they work for? I asked people to lend their names to the, ‘Yes, I agree to read this, not necessarily to blurb, but I would be interested in getting a copy.’ And through that process, people gave me feedback. They said, ‘Oh, are you going to include a chapter on performance enhancing drugs like Adderall and that kind of stuff and are you going to include a chapter on X? And I was able to say, ‘No, here’s why I’m not including a chapter on X.’ It really did force me to hone things down. But when I have to have that meeting that you just had about promotion – that is going to be so much easier because I already have this thing and all I’m going to have to do is go back and just make sure that the producers really are still the producers of those shows and that kind of thing.

KJ:                                12:16                We have talked about getting to the point in a project where you could create a burn chart. A good proposal puts you almost to that, in and of itself.

Jess:                             12:26                So the other thing I’ve talked about in the past is that when I wrote Gift of Failure, it was my first book, it happened so fast that when I went into the process of writing, it wasn’t focused enough, I hadn’t had enough conversations with my editor. So the process went like this, backing up a tiny bit. So this big proposal went to my publisher, to my editor, and I knew they had 30 days and I think they got back in around a week. In fact, I came home from recording our podcast and there was an email waiting for me, ‘Please call me.’ And it was fantastic and she’s really excited. Gail Winston called me afterwards, this woman is so much class, and we had a really great, sort of congratulations conversation about nuts and bolts where we agreed. I said very specifically, ‘This time, could we do something a little differently? Could I send you the first two or three chapters to make sure we’re on the same wavelength?’ And I do think this new book is going to really adhere to the proposal much more than Gift of Failure did, because it was like a graduate course in writing a book. I feel like I know what I’m doing now because I had to think so hard about the proposal, it’s much clearer. In fact, the first proposal included a whole bunch of content that we just got rid of for this version. I also was much smarter about my deadline. We’ve talked a lot about writing on the road and how hard that is for me. Researching is not hard on the road, but writing is hard for me on the road. So we asked for this summer and next summer. So, I will hand my draft in at the end of next summer, but my editor will have seen chunks of it. And what’s funny is I’m just so excited. I thought, ‘Oh man, I’ve been beating this thing to death. Am I still going to be excited to write it?’ Well, yes, because I’ve done so much of the research I feel like I have my arms around it. At the beginning of Gift of Failure, I definitely had that feeling of this is so big, I can’t even wrap my brain around it. Thank you to Lori Abkemeier, our agent, again. I feel like this proposal has really focused things for me. So every single time I ever gripe about proposal writing ever again, please remind me that I am so grateful that that’s how it went.

KJ:                                15:07                It’s so important that you got through the six or seven initial ideas for ‘My Next Book.’ I think you kind of get to a point in a freelance career when the next obvious thing to do is write a book. And at that point I think it’s really easy. I was talking to someone who can sell a book, because of the platform that they have. It wasn’t a huge platform, but you kind of get to a point where if you pitch a book and it’s a reasonable book, you’re going to sell it. And you were beyond that point. If you pitched almost anything, someone would buy it and there you would be writing it. My point is that it’s so important that it be a book you want to write because writing a book is really long and really hard and if at some point you’re just like, ‘Man, I really wish I had chosen a different topic.’ You’ve got the right thing, you’re so excited and it’s fantastic.

Jess:                             16:21                When I announced it on Facebook, a couple of people said ‘When can I buy the book?’ ‘I’m like, 2020.’ A long time from now. But, I have to say it’s been hell talking in non-specifics and I hate vague-booking and other stuff, but at a certain point, our agent would have killed me if I had been specific. Because it wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to be specific, so I’m just so excited that this is out there. It was in Publisher’s Marketplace a couple of days ago during the lunch thing and that was just really exciting. It’s a ride I’m ready to take again. I did note to Tim, my husband, the other day that it’s a little bit like labor in that I don’t have a lot of very specific memories of grinding out like the daily grind of sitting down to write Gift of Failure, but I know I did because there’s a book there. When a certain amount of time has gone past and you’ve gotten over the painful parts, I think it’s very exciting to go into the next thing with a bit of knowledge and also a bit of strategic amnesia.

KJ:                                17:37                The discipline is established, you know, you can do it. You know that if you just sit down and keep going, that that book will squeeze out at the other end.

Jess:                             17:47                Plus, I love doing the research. I love reading everything I can get my hands on and that’s what I’m in the middle of it right now. So it’s really fun. Onto another topic. I wanted to talk about the fact that our friend Sarina had an interesting experience the other day. So, Sarina has some very excited fans. She has been writing the serial. People are loving it. Sarina Bowen’s serial Studly Hours, very funny and very engaging and wonderful.

KJ:                                18:17                It’s just the thing to have pop into your email while you’re like sitting there waiting in a doctor’s office.

Jess:                             18:22                I get excited every Tuesday. I’m like, ‘It’s here, it’s here. I get to read again.’ But someone tattooed a line of her writing on their arm. How do you feel about that?

KJ:                                18:32                Well, I’ve got some mantras in mine that I might tattoo on my arm, but yeah, that would be a little… wow, I hope I got that right. That’s permanent. You know, I was gonna say you don’t have to get it right the first time, but what I really meant was you don’t have to get it right every time. I’m thinking about my mantras. Well, a tattoo, that’s big. That’s really big. Those are loyal fans.

Jess:                             19:05                I’ve seen celebrities talking about the fact that people had tattooed either their signature or whatever on there, but it’s just fascinating to me that something Sarina wrote in her house is now on someone.

KJ:                                19:19                It’s not mandatory. You can read Sarina’s writing without tattooing it on your body in any way. Nor does it lure you into some sort of cult like state.

Jess:                             19:30                Yeah. Wow. It was bizarre, and hysterical, and amazing.

KJ:                                19:35                I was thinking refrigerator magnets. So it’s kinda like tattooing your refrigerator.

Jess:                             19:43                So I know you never, ever make mistakes, but it is your week to talk about #MistakesI’veMade.

KJ:                                19:49                You know this actually this week, I confess. You know how in an interview you’re supposed to have an answer to, ‘What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on the job or what’s your biggest flaw?’ And you’re always like, ‘I’m too positive.’ Okay, my mistakes this week are a little bit like that just because they’re not like super duper mistakes.

Jess:                             20:13                Okay? I will not judge you. Hey, I will not judge you for not being fundamentally flawed.

KJ:                                20:18                So, one is a mistake that I think we’re all making and it’s not exactly a mistake. It was just something that suddenly dawned on me the other day. Why, when I sit down with my laptop with the intent of writing for the next hour or two, why don’t I just turn the internet off? Why do I leave the internet on on my laptop when I’m not using it?

Jess:                             20:38                Well, I know why I do. Because I would hit the button off and then about 30 seconds later someone would yell from upstairs, ‘What happened to the internet?

KJ:                                20:49                I just mean on my computer. Why don’t I just turn that off when I’m not using it?

Jess:                             20:55                My excuse has always been because I might need to look up an article, but you’re absolutely right.

New Speaker:               20:59                But then I could turn it back on. So it’s sort of like that nudge question. Who decided that rather than having it always off and I turn it on when I need it, I would have it always on. Why? I mean, I get texts, my emails are flowing through, but I don’t actually need to be connected while I am writing. If I need to look something up, it would be better for that to be sort of a thoughtfully paused exercise.

Jess:                             21:28                Not only that, but I noticed this morning I texted you a few times and you did not respond right away. And my first thought was, ‘Oh good for KJ, she’s working. It moved me to say, ”Oh, I should get to work. Or if I send an email to our agent (who does not respond to emails over the weekend), I’ve actually taken to not even bothering to email her over the weekend because I feel like I don’t want to pierce her bubble of family time.

KJ:                                21:58                So it was more of who decided the switch should be always on instead of the switch should be always off? So we all know from last week’s episode (if you were listening) that I’m a fan of Cal Newport and his book Deep Work. His next book is called Digital Minimalism. I know that he has a little article out about it, which I have not yet read, I think that one dropped. First of all, turns out we share an agent with Mr. Newport, which is a lovely surprise. And she told me about the new book, but then Jocelyn K Glei, (who has a podcast that I love called Hurry Slowly) in her email, which is one of the best weekly emails that I get, mentioned this article about Digital Minimalism, which I have not yet read, but it just all got me thinking about that question of ‘Why are other people choosing what I pay attention to?’.

Jess:                             22:50                Enough people responded to the mention of Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. One woman had apparently blogged about it ages ago because she had loved it so much. And she said, ‘I’m so glad you mentioned it because it prompted me to go back and re look at it; I had kind of forgotten and it gave me some great reminders. And I’ve been reading it, too.

KJ:                                23:15                It bears repeating, that book. And I look forward to Digital Minimalism.

Jess:                             23:19                I don’t know if you remember, but early on when we first started recording the podcast, I said that I was at a conference at Harvard one time and a very prominent Harvard professor mentioned with great love and affection the program he uses to shut down his internet on his computer – Freedom. And someone said to him, ‘Well, why don’t you just turn off your internet?’ And he looked at them like they had two heads and said, ‘Because I can’t.’ And so even this highly productive, highly esteemed Harvard professor is like, look, I just need someone to take the reins away from me and turn it off on my computer for two hours.

KJ:                                23:57                I totally get that. I think some of what was happening for me today is that we’ve just come off a two week long vacation, which for me really did encompass both weekends. And I was traveling so intensely that I turned off my regular emails. So I was reachable for you guys and my close friends and my family in the way that you want to be. In the way that you were reachable in like 1995 – in a reasonable way. In the way in which phones have improved our lives, I was still reachable. But in the way phones have not improved my life – all of those things I had turned off. And it just made me think, you know, I could keep that stuff turned off.

Jess:                             24:40                I was on vacation, too with my family. It was my kids’ school break and I put on an autoresponder to my email. People didn’t buy it. There was an autoresponder saying very specifically that where I was, I had incredibly limited email access because there was no cell service in various spots we were. And many people were still insisting on a response. Just writing back and saying it’s really important that I hear from you about this fairly soon on a couple of things, where it really wasn’t that important that they heard from me. But they responded back to the original email and to my autorespond saying, ‘No, really, I need to hear back on this.

KJ:                                25:26                I will say that what I got was ‘Enjoy your vacation and don’t deal with this until you get back.

Jess:                             25:31                I did not get that.

KJ:                                25:32                I’m sorry. Your people on the other end of your emails they suck.

Jess:                             25:40                Maybe I should’ve been more strident or more forceful – ‘But no, really…’

KJ:                                25:44                The funniest thing that I did though, I had it set up to start like Friday at midnight or Saturday morning at midnight. On Friday at like five I got a couple emails that you couldn’t just leave for a week without some form of a response. So, I thought about it for a minute and I was like, ‘I’m going to go turn that autoresponder on now and I’m going to copy the text from my autoresponder and I’m going to stick it in as my reply to this email because I just can’t.’ So two emails got an autoresponse that wasn’t auto, but it was a personal autoresponse.

Jess:                             26:21                So it’s my turn to do #AmPromoting and I have to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about way back when I first started writing Gift of Failure and a company I talked to that I adore. There’s a company out there called Apt One and they do beautiful branding work. They do beautiful, expensive, but beautiful branding work. One of the things that Liza Lowinger, who’s the CEO of the company, said to me is, ‘You know, you may be very, very excited about the book the Gift of Failure, but the Gift of Failure is not you, right? The Gift of Failure is the book that you are writing now and you’re going to do other stuff. The speaking, and maybe writing other books, and having journalism. So you’re branding you, not your book. But if you look at my website right now, it is all Gift of Failure. So I started talking to my my website person and we started talking about a gradual transition. I still need Gift of Failure for promoting my speaking career, to be the focus for much of my website, but that’s not always going to be the case. And that’s really hard because so much of my identity has been around this book for the past four or five years. So thinking of what that’s going to look like as I transition away from Gift of Failure equals Jessica Lahey to these two very different topics equal Jessica Lahey. I’m not sure what that’s gonna look like. And I’m definitely open to all suggestions, but it’s a tough thing when you’ve had a book that’s done well and it has become … I guess it would be a lot like an actor who’s defined by a role that they played or something like that. How you would break out and become yourself again so that you could play other roles, that’s sort of what I’m working on right now. And from a promoting standpoint, that also means that I’m starting to think now – the book is not even due until 2019 and I’m thinking now about who might be interested in this book and I have two or three pages in my journal, just as I go along. Occasionally when I’m on Twitter and I find someone who might be interested eventually in the book I’ll screenshot the person’s Twitter bio to remind myself to go write them down. Yeah, so thinking way ahead.

KJ:                                28:56                I keep a Google spreadsheet for all of that and it’s a good way to do it. It’s got like 46 tabs that include things like people with lots of Twitter followers. Random famous people with kids who might be interested in my book, that’s a tab.

Jess:                             29:11                I think I need to spend a lot of time on websites of authors that have had a hit and have also written other books. I want to look to see what their websites look like so that I can see how you know their website can be about them, but also here are the books I’ve written.

KJ:                                29:27                I had a funny experience of going on somebody’s website last night because their email bounced and I was trying to figure out where they had gone and I looked at their website and I was like, this looks familiar.

KJ:                                29:39                This looks like my website in different colors. I could spot the key signatures of the people that had designed my website and sure enough I scroll down to the bottom and there they were. It’s Out.think, by the way, and they’re great.

Jess:                             30:04                Oh, speaking of #AmPromoting. The other thing I did that just on a very practical level – the day the proposal went out, I purchased the URL for the domain name for what the book is currently called, which is Addiction Innoculation. I don’t know if it’s going to stay that, but either way it’s inexpensive enough that I wanted to jump on that before someone else did.

KJ:                                30:26                I just realized that I don’t own How To Be a Happier Parent, so I’m gonna fix that today. Before you guys hear this, I will own it and it will just redirect.

Jess:                             30:36                Well, for example I own giftoffailure.com and it redirects. That’s smart because there are people that just keep an eye out for things to buy and then buy them and they squat and then you have to purchase it from them. It also makes you feel kind of official, though. So if anyone wants to go in to email us through our contact forms on our websites, kjdellantonia.com or jessicalahey.com or go to the Facebook group #AmWriting and if you have any ideas about branding yourself as opposed to branding your books, or any great examples you know of, of people who have done that really well, I’d love to know because that’s where my brain is right now.

KJ:                                31:31                Other than that, I think that completes today’s episode #AmWriting.

Jess:                             31:35                Unless you want to talk about what you’ve been reading.

KJ:                                31:39                Oh, I forgot, I have been reading some good stuff.

Jess:                             31:41                See, she’s just excited to get on her way. I’m excited to talk about what I’ve been reading because I’ve been reading some good stuff.

KJ:                                31:48                Okay. I read some fun stuff. And with Mother’s Day coming up, it’s particularly fun stuff. So, the first thing I read was a book called Amateur Hour: Motherhood and Essays and Swear Words, words by Kimberley Harrington. It’s coming out in May. So by the time you hear this, it will be out like the next day or something. I will just say in all honesty, that there’s nothing that I want to read less at the moment than a book of essays about being a mother or father or some other gender neutral form of parents because that’s all I did for, you know, six years. And I still continue to do quite a bit of it. So to do it for pleasure, not usually, but this one I really liked, I really enjoyed it. I read it all the way up to the end, at which I concluded that the final essay would inevitably one about the magic of moving on and children growing up. And I confess, didn’t read that one, don’t need to. Got it, check. But I really liked the book. It’s really funny and entertaining. Even if you don’t think you want to read anything else about parenting.

Jess:                             32:57                What I love about essay collections is if there’s one that you’re not grooving on, just skip it.

KJ:                                33:02                Well these are all by the same person. There’s sort of an obligatory thing you have to do at the end of something.

Jess:                             33:09                Also, in the #AmWriting Facebook group there was a discussion about covers because one of the people in the group has a a book where now the conversation is about covers. And the cover of Amateur Hour was put up there as an example of a really great cover. And it’s very cute. It’s a grenade that’s exploding with little hearts.

KJ:                                33:33                And so the other thing I’ve been reading was also about motherhood. And I’m 99% sure it’s coming out in May. I have an actual copy, not an advance so it’s not on the back. It is called The Baby Plan, by Kate Rorick. It is a fun, tasty cake of an entertaining book. I mean I’m never having another baby and the fact that this is about pregnancy, you wouldn’t have thought. But it sort of got a nice age range of characters, it’s entertaining, it’s light, it’s got one of those sort of looks at a Hollywood show that I found entertaining. Turns out to be written by a TV writer and you can kind of feel it. It moves really fast. So it’s like a pre-beach read. Like I said, I wouldn’t have thought I wanted to read a book that sort of centered around pregnancy, but I did, it’s got a lot more to it than that. So, recommended, fun one, not literary fiction.

Jess:                             34:43                So I have been reading some really great stuff. And by reading two of these books, I mean I was listening to them. I listened to a book called Chancers, which showed up in my feed, I think because of addiction stuff. Cause of course that’s about all I’m reading these days. And it had two authors, Graham MacIndoe and Susan Stellin. Susan Stellin is a journalist, Graham McIndoo is a photographer. And it is the story of their experience together as a couple when he was dealing with addiction and he was in jail for a while. And it was absolutely fascinating. I had a lot of preconceived notions going into this one. They’re both very smart people who did some incredibly stupid things. I just thought I would give it up, but I loved this book and the audio book is read by the two of them. And he has a charming accent and she’s lovely. And it’s also fascinating to me and she talks about this in the acknowledgements. In the epilogue she talks about if you are a couple that has been through something like addiction, and prison, and breaking up many times, it’s just a mess. I don’t recommend an autopsy on your entire relationship together and writing a memoir. But this is what we did. And anyway, it was fascinating to listen to. And then I read Scott Jurek. He is an ultra athlete and an endurance athlete and he set the Appalachian Trail speed record a couple of years ago. And I listened to it because we live right off of the Appalachian Trail. A good friend of mine had set the Appalachian Trail speed record a couple of years ago and I happened to have also liked Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run about being a vegan ultra athlete. But what was fun about it was that anytime you read about the Appalachian Trail, it’s really easy for me to picture certain parts of it because they go through our backyard. So it was a really, really fun read. And then I have to talk about one last book. Leslie Jamison wrote an essay and then a collection of essays called the same thing, the Eponymous Empathy Exams and the Empathy Exams were one of my favorite essays I think I’ve read in the past 10 years. And she has a new book called The Recovering Intoxication and Its Aftermath and I’m about a third of the way through. And the blurbs are amazing. I mean, look at the blurbs she has on the back. Andrew Solomon, Stephen King, Mary Louise Parker.

KJ:                                37:46                Those are diverse enough to suggest that they are not all the blurbs of people who are secretly married to her cousins.

Jess:                             37:53                Exactly. Anne Fadiman. Anyway, really good blurbs fantastic book. Empathy Exams was just masterful, so I was really excited to hear that this was by her. Yeah, I’m really excited about that. Anything else from your front?

KJ:                                38:08                No, I think you know, it’s been a good week.

Jess:                             38:11                And now we have to keep our butts in the chair and our heads in the game. Thank you so much. Bye. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid.


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