Episode 209 #StartYourWriterThing - #AmWriting
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Episode 209 #StartYourWriterThing

This week, it’s Jess and I (KJ) talking to Olivia and Meghan from the Marginally podcast, which we love for its frank conversations about challenges and setbacks and day jobs and the struggle to keep your butt in the chair (sound familiar?).

We talked about finding your writing people, the joys of keeping that day job, and the things that grow from grabbing a friend and starting the thing you wish someone else would start.

#AmWriting

Meghan: Followers by Megan Angelo

The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel

Olivia: Emma by Jane Austen (and all the movies)

Independence Square by A.D. Miller

Jess: Wow, No Thank you by Samantha Irby

KJ: Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn


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Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.

KJ (00:00):

Hi. #AmWriting listeners, I’m so delighted to share with you our interview with Olivia and Megan, host of the Marginally podcast, in which we talk about building writer friendships and writer communities. The Author Accelerator writer community is one of my favorites. I’m on a lot of mailing lists, but I read everyone I get from Author Accelerator and I attend a lot of their webinars and classes as well. There’s something about that team that helps me feel connected and part of something larger than myself to find out more and get in on it. Go to authoraccelerator.com. Is it recording?

Jess (00:38):

No it’s recording. Go ahead.

KJ (00:40):

This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don’t remember what I was supposed to be doing.

Jess (00:44):

Alright. Let’s start over.

KJ (00:45):

Awkward pause. I’m going to rustle some papers. Okay. Now one, two, three.

KJ (00:56):

Hey, I’m KJ Dell’Antonia and this is #AmWriting. #AmWriting is the podcast about writing everything from fiction, to nonfiction, to short pieces, to long pieces to things that you think you’re going to get done this week, to things that you just can’t even see the end in sight. And I am joined today by my cohost Jess Lahey and her dog and that’s Coco. Take it away, Jess.

Jess (01:30):

Hi, this is Jess Lahey and Coco yelling at a squirrel outside the window. I’m the author of The Gift of Failure and The Addiction Inoculation, which will be out in spring of 2021. Which just went into copy edits. It’s very exciting.

KJ (01:46):

It’s amazing. I am KJ Dell’Antonia. I am the author of How To Be a Happier Parent as well as the novel, The Chicken Sisters, which will be out sometime this summer of 2020.

KJ (01:58):

I’m also a former columnist for the New York Times and a former editor there. And we have guests today. But before we even launch into that, I will own our time and recording period. It is April 3rd, 2020. We are mid covid as you know, if you’re listening in real time, but I hope you’re listening for the future and I hope it’s a happy one. And because all of our families are home, in Jessica’s case, her partner is recording something in another part of the house. And so she has been awarded the dogs, the custody of the dogs and their interference with recording. You know, every day it’s a negotiation. I personally won today and got the silent office. But there have been many days in the past few that I have not. And as you probably heard from that soft laughter, we have other guests today and we’re super excited to be joined by the team from The Marginally podcast. So let me just say, Olivia, Megan, welcome. We’re so happy to have you here.

Marginally Team (03:23):

We’re excited to be here.

KJ (03:25):

This is going to be great. Jess and I were recently guests on Marginally and we’ll put a link to that into the show notes and now we’re having Megan and Olivia, it’s like one of those seventies sitcom trade.

KJ (03:51):

In sort of that vein what we asked Olivia and Megan here to talk with us about is how their friendship enriches their writing lives. And more importantly, and I think more relatively, how you can create friendships and mechanisms around your friendship, if you will, that will increase your writing life. So before we launch into that conversation, can I ask you each to just dish a little for our listeners who might not know you as well as those of us who listened to Marginally do, about who you are and what you do and what you write. And I’m going to make Megan start.

Megan (04:53):

Okay. I am Megan Brawley and I am a former public librarian, but then I spent about eight years and I still do this part time writing the indexes in the back of nonfiction books. It takes a human to do that.

Jess (05:12):

Can I just interrupt and say that when I was writing Gift of Failure, I wrote a panicked email to my agent that of course, this is my first book I’ve ever written and I wrote a panicked email to my agent. Like when we were sort of wrapping things up, I thought I was pretty close to done saying, ‘Hold on, wait a second. Who writes the index?’ And it was just this moment of sheer terror. Like, was I supposed to be doing keywords the whole time when I was writing this book? So I’m just so grateful for you people.

Megan (05:48):

Well, and that’s something that a lot of people don’t know. I mean, authors do not have to write the indexes themselves. Publishers a lot of times say that, Oh, you’re responsible for it, and they may say, here’s a list of some people that we’ve worked with before and their contact information or they may just say have fun and then you’re stuck going, Oh my God, what am I supposed to do? But for any of our listeners who are out there who are curious or are in this position and saying, Oh no, like my book goes to press in two weeks and I do not know how to write an index and I’m going to kill myself now. The American Society for indexing is ASI indexing. So asindexing.org and you can also just type in findanindexer.com and that will bring you to like a huge directory of people who do this for a living.

KJ (06:44):

Before we leave that topic, I could see that we might also have listeners who would be saying to themselves, Hmm. Indexing books. That sounds like something I could do from the comfort of my own home where strangely enough I seem to be spending a lot of time these days. I would guess maybe that website would be a good place to go if you were interested in that, too? How’d you get started indexing?

Megan (07:11):

So I was a public librarian and I was pregnant with my first child and my husband and I had just moved. And because of his job, we were under the impression that we might be moving again within a year. And so I interviewed for a job. Nights and weekends are the busiest times for public librarians and having a new infant. He actually hadn’t been born at the time, but anyway, I was like, maybe this is not something I need to be doing right now with a husband who’s not reliably home, not his fault, but his job. So, and we’ll be moving in a year that’s not fair to an employer. Maybe I’ll just stay home and then reassess. And so I stayed home and my son was like a year old and I was insane because I’m not cut out for just sitting and playing with an infant all the time. Hats off to those who are. And so I dug out this indexing – cause I had learned about indexing a little bit when I was in library school and it’s similar to cataloging, which is something I had done a lot of in the public library. And I had ordered this indexing course cause Olivia and I actually knew someone in college whose mom had done this for a living. And so I had ordered this indexing correspondence course a couple of years earlier and then never gotten around to it because baby, and moves, and things. And I pulled out the CD rom because that is how long ago it was. This was a long time ago. So I pulled out the CD rom and I got a babysitter for a few hours a couple days a week and I took this correspondence course and went to a regional conference and met some people who were like, ‘You’re the same age as my daughter and she doesn’t have children and you have (at this point he was two) you have a two year old, so you are now my new surrogate child with a surrogate grandchild and they kind of (like communities do, which we’re going to talk about I think later) the indexing community is also like a very welcoming community and everybody was really helpful and interested in helping me get started. And so I got a couple subcontracting jobs and went from there and I freelanced as an indexer for eight years. It’s been eight years now. And I still do it. I did a couple of jobs in January and that’s it cause I’m also in school adding a school media license to my master’s degree so that I can be a school librarian. Cause I now have two children who are in school. Well they are at home in the basement, but they’re supposed to be in school and that schedule works better than the whole night/weekends.

KJ (10:13):

Are you working as a school librarian yet or are you in the education slot and then get a job soon?

Megan (10:21):

Well I was doing my student teaching this semester. So, I’m taking my last two classes and student teaching because we also hopefully still are moving again this summer. So I chose not to apply for a job for this school year because again, working, knowing that I was going to be leaving at the end of the school year just didn’t make a lot of sense. So I’ve been indexing, and schooling, and parenting, and yeah,

KJ (11:03):

Now we’re going to switch over and hear about Olivia and then we’ll ask you what you write. I’m just going to confuse everyone and I bet all four of our voices sound exactly the same and we’re trying, I’ll address you if I can. Olivia, give us some background. Where are you, what are you doing now? What are you working on?

Olivia (11:41):

A great question. So it’s a little bit unusual at the moment where I physically am. So right now I’m in London. I kind of split my time for personal reasons. My husband lives in London and then I work in Ukraine, which is a fun place to work. I work in consulting, so I do fraud investigations for the most part and anti-bribery, anti corruption, that sort of thing in the corporate world. So totally not writing adjacent, but not boring. So it’s a fun, but pretty full-on day job that I have.

KJ (12:16):

But right now you’re back in London?

Olivia (12:19):

But now I’m back in London. I decided where would I rather get Corona virus and sort of landed on UK, although it’s not that easy to choose.

KJ (12:27):

Yeah, yeah. Great choices, great choices. And when it comes to writing, Megan, what are you in process with right now? And then I’m going to go with how are you feeling about it? But what are you in process with right now, Megan?

Megan (12:45):

So I’m on the like rewrite, revise (for the third time) stage. Right now I’m writing young adult books. So I have one that I put in a drawer and then of course a year later, like a week ago, had all sorts of ideas on how to fix it. But it’s still in the drawer. So I have written a second manuscript. I am revising it right now. And mostly they’re young adult contemporary, dealing with friendship, with the friendship between teen girls, which I think is endlessly fascinating and so formative. And of course there’s typically a romance subplot, but I wouldn’t classify them as romances upfront.

KJ (13:38):

Olivia, what are you working on?

Olivia (13:40):

Okay. I’m also working on a novel. It doesn’t fit into a genre neatly, but it’s basically a novel about corruption in the former Soviet union and wealthy business people you might call oligarchs.

KJ (13:57):

Ooh, I love a good billionaire book myself. I just do, it’s fun. You can hate them and yet covet their lifestyles or, I don’t know. I don’t exactly know what it is that works about the billionaire thing, but it really, absolutely 100% does. So you guys have been together as friends since college, right? And together as writer friends, I know that your friendship evolved. Even though you were both writers in college, you didn’t out yourself. And then eventually at some point you became writer friends and I would love it if one of you would just talk us through the process of turning a regular friend into somebody that’s more of a writer friend, a professional friend – of shifting that relationship a little bit.

Olivia (15:02):

So in college we worked together on the student newspaper sort of for a couple of years. Obviously we had read and probably edited each other’s work because of that. So I think in some senses we weren’t precious about our craft. I think that’s something that’s really important that it’s not like when you write something, it’s not your soul that you’re giving to somebody else to read. You know, it’s just a work product that you’ve basically come up with. So that was already sort of there. But I do think that’s an important element if you are going to change from just being friends into being writer friends. For us we probably around the time we were like 30, so we’re both 39, Megan will be 39 later. Almost 10 years ago we started sort of saying like, ‘Oh, I’m kind of writing.’ But probably only in the last five years did we really develop a consistent writing habit where we really started holding each other kind of accountable. We each got separate writing coaches, different people, but that also helped us to kind of build in our accountability and things like that. And then probably the biggest thing, obviously starting this podcast has been great because now we talk really regularly about writing and that’s important and we’ve also just organically because of that once you start talking about your writing with somebody, then it’s logical that you would start to send them some things that you want somebody to look at. And I think the process of sharing your writing and feeling more and more trust over time. Like, if you realize that you can trust somebody, then you start to just expand that. I think that kind of happens naturally. But for us it was first starting just to talk about it and then starting to hold each other accountable and then later actually sharing work and seeing that this is a person that I can give something to and they will give me real advice or actual pointers on what can be changed, but they aren’t going to be cruel or horrible to me. And so that’s just sort of built up over time where we, I think really trust each other with our writing.

Megan (17:14):

Yeah, I think definitely. I was just going to say, one of the things that I think has helped with us is both with our friendship because sort of a funny part of our origin story is that we were not friends at first and we really didn’t like each other and a lot of that came out of a sense of competition. And once we established that maybe we both wanted similar things, but in a different way, the competition went away. At the time we both wanted to be journalists. This was in the late nineties, just right as newspapers were really shifting from print to online. And then as that transition happened I know that for me, that definitely I was like, Nope, I’m done, this environment is not what I want to be in. It wasn’t like I gave up on the dream because I couldn’t get out there. It was just not what I had wanted. And so it was really easy for me to shift into something else. And it was a shift into libraries. But anyway, not wanting the same thing. Like we had different types of writing that we wanted to do. We had different things that we wanted in general. And so that has made a big difference. And like you two wrote similar things for a long time, but you now write different things. I don’t know, has that changed anything for you?

KJ (18:51):

Yeah, it definitely makes things easier.

Jess (18:52):

I think we talked about this recently. I think it does, as cool as we’ve always been about turf stuff. Like I think we’ve always supported each other’s work and you know, I think the fact that I was sort of tipping over into education stuff was helpful, but it’s also just a big relief to be in different areas. And ditto, you know, Julie Lythcott-Haims, we talked about the fact that Julie and I had very similar books. But now my next project is all about substance abuse prevention. And her next project is going to be this great book called How To Be an Adult, which is a followup to How To Raise an Adult. I’ve always been enthusiastic for Julie and I’ve always supported Julie, but it’s going to be even easier for me to just bend over backwards to say everybody should buy this book because I’m not thinking in the back of my head, everybody should buy this book, but buy my book first. There’s this added ease to the relationship when you’re not on identical turfs.

KJ (19:54):

Absolutely. Well, I think it’s really notable that you two started out in similar veins and Jess and I started out in similar veins, but you mentioned that you wanted something different out of it. And I think that’s important and it’s probably almost always true with your writer friends that maybe you’re both doing parenting essays now, or maybe you’re both pursuing service work or journalism, but you maybe have different 5-year and 10-year plans. And to put that out there, it’s both helpful to talk to your friend about, okay, where do I want to be in a few years on how, what are the steps I’m going to take to get there? And also helpful because you quickly see that your next steps are not necessarily the same. And if they are, then you’re going to help each other along, right? That’s still great. But often you’re not necessarily going in the same direction.

Olivia (21:04):

Yeah. Like in my adult life, I haven’t felt very competitive with other people. Like I work in a competitive industry and job in the consulting world and not everybody gets to make partner or whatever. But I’ve always felt that if you destroy each other, you also destroy yourself in the process of competing over something. Unless you are genuinely doing literally exactly the same thing, then if you’re good at what you’re doing and if you focus on your own stuff, then there’s enough for everybody. And you know, with writing, I mean there’s billions of readers and there’s a lot of people to be in your audience. I don’t think you need to compete.

Megan (21:45):

Yeah. Well, and you two have said before, you know, people aren’t going to read just like one summer romance book. You know, they’re not going to just say, well I read the one summer romance book so I don’t ever have to read, I’m done, I’ve checked that off. You know, typically people will read lots of ways of telling the same story. So even if you are writing the same thing, you’re not writing the same thing.

KJ (22:17):

One of the things I wanted to ask you two about is the idea of starting something. So I feel like a lot of us sit around going, man, I really wish somebody would start a writing group and ask me to join. Or start a podcast and ask me to be the cohost. Or start a blog and ask me to contribute. And you two started yourselves. And I think that is such an important step. Was one of you more the impetus than the other? How did you make the decision to actually pull it together and do something?

Olivia (22:54):

So, yeah. Well, it’s just really funny because we’re several times zones apart. We communicate a lot just with text messages. We kind of both tend to have the same idea at the same time. I don’t know if that’s because we share a whole lot in general and we trade, you know, you need to read this, this is great or whatever. But we both were talking several years ago and talking about writing and talking about how we wanted to make more time for it and needed accountability. And I don’t even know who came up with the idea first or if we both came up with it at the same time, but we were kind of both on the same page from the beginning. And this happens anytime we make a change in what we’re doing, one of us will send the other a message and the other one will say, I was just thinking that exact same thing. So I don’t know if we’re just lucky or how that works…

Megan (24:02):

At the same time for whatever reason, maybe we were frustrated with how hard it is sometimes to make time for writing when you do have full-on stuff in your life. We both started being really annoyed that a lot of writing things (like resources out there) sort of imply that you don’t have a day job or they overlook that element. And so it’s not very practical for people who are really trying to do something different. And so we started taking that up.

Olivia (24:27):

You know what it was? We were listening to a different writing podcast that we won’t name on here that I don’t even think it’s updated anymore and it’s definitely not y’alls. And we both got really frustrated with one episode where the host was talking to someone who is a ‘personal brand expert’. And this person was talking about how you should never, ever mention your day job. You should always be just a writer and cultivate that as your personal brand because readers don’t want to know. And we had both listened to it and we both got really annoyed and then it came out of that.

Jess (25:02):

Annoyance is a very powerful tool.

KJ (25:08):

I forget, but I think it was probably Olivia, who’s talked about how (and I don’t think it is for you, either) giving up your day job is not your goal. For either of you. I mean heck, Megan, you’re just embarking on a new day job. I mean, that would be kind of silly. So the goal was to talk to writers who want to be writers and have a day job. Who don’t want to brand away or hide their day job, but want to make writing part of a larger career…

Olivia (25:45):

Yeah. Well, and I think something that we learned through our practice as student journalists was if you have a question, you go find experts and you ask them. And if you have a platform, no matter how tiny it is, you can generally get someone to say yes, they’re happy to ask. And so if you want to know how to do something, you just go ask people. So that’s why we started it, so that we could ask people like you and others with more experience, how did you do it?

Megan (26:18):

You know, we like to do planning, and make lists, and all this, so it’s like a good intersection with the planner internet. People love to talk about their routines. It’s kind of fashionable at the moment. So I think between all of that and it’s been really fun to talk to writers about how they do that and it’s pretty inspirational, like real people get published and they also can be successful or satisfied in another job. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s good.

Jess (26:49):

I think the true delight for me is that the #AmWriting Facebook group – not only were we so excited to create a moderated community that’s really just writers supporting other writers without a lot of the other crap. But a lot of the stuff that happens in there is, you know, I’m having trouble balancing this thing, how do other people do it? And then there’s this like comment thread of 30 comments about when they find the ideal time to write and how they fit things in between X, Y. And I love that stuff. That really is what keeps me going, mainly because I say, Oh, my life doesn’t look like that person’s life, but they can get it done. So that means that I can put my butt in the chair and just as KJ says, just open the document and I’m going to be able to get it done. And it’s not even that, you know, I’m looking at these people and saying I’m so similar to these people. It just helps to know there are other people out there struggling with the same stuff. And that’s the fun stuff to read, for me anyway.

KJ (27:50):

Yeah, I dig that too. Well, this is an excellent place to sort of slide our way into the other thing that I wanted to talk to you guys about. So how do you fit your work in around your day job and how has that changed in this weird and funky time of all of our day jobs suddenly becoming at home jobs. So I guess tell us a little bit about what’s happening for you. We don’t want to permanently date this episode by offering advice only if you’re quarantined at home because we certainly hope this is not something we’ll be doing for very long or doing again. But right now, how are you fitting the writing into your routine and how do you usually do that? And how’s that changing?

Megan (28:51):

So, I am used to working from home because I freelanced for so long and my schoolwork is actually a distance education program anyway, so that is pretty standard. The bigger change for me was when I started student teaching and suddenly I was away from home for three days a week, at school in the classroom. I’ve been reading Virginia Woolf’s diaries lately and I have just been laughing so hard because she has these entries where she’s like, okay, September, October, November, I’m going to work on these essays. And then when I finish that, then I’m going to read this and I’m going to do all this. And I know that her husband Leonard edited the diaries and so not everything is in there, but that’ll be the last entry. And then like six months will go by and then she’ll start a new one with the exact same thing. It’s so funny and that’s so good.

Jess (30:02):

I love that she’s doing this big term, longterm planning. And yet, my favorite things that she writes are like, and then I sat and watched a spider for six days in a row and that kind of stuff. Actually, I have to say David Sedaris also has a very popular essay about the fact that he dove into a deep watch of the spiders that were hanging out in his house, too. So maybe that’s my next plan. I should just start watching the spiders. Certainly worked for Annie Dillard. Well for Annie Dillard, she has an essay about about praying mantises and their mating habits. That’s one of my favorite things. It’s in Pilgrim from Tinker Creek. So the whole insect vein, don’t even get me started.

Megan (31:21):

So it is funny to look at other (Olivia’s going to fuss at me for saying this) but ‘real writers’. How they do things and to know that I’m not the only one who sits and spends three pages in a journal, writing about how what I plan to do and then not actually do it or not do it in that same way. So, one of the things that has helped is to kind of look at things on a bigger view, not just a daily thing. I will look at what do I want to get done this week. But I also try not to plan each day ahead of time if I can help it. Like the things that aren’t obviously, you know, set in stone. Like I knew we were going to be doing this today and I got up in a panic and checked my calendar like four times this morning, afraid that I had missed the time. So, I do have to write those set things down, but then otherwise it’s like, I don’t know until the day, right now, what is going to be going on as far as who’s going to be using my computer for a while because he has to do his schoolwork or whatever. And so to – one, not get too specific, but also not get too frustrated if I don’t do the things that I had hoped to do, but I try to just do something, if that makes sense.

KJ (32:54):

It makes total sense, cause right now, I mean everything feels hard.

Megan (33:00):

Yeah. So even if it’s 11 o’clock and I’m finally in bed (I have a notebook that I keep beside my bed) and as I’m falling asleep, I think of 75 things that will make my book better. I will write them all down and then go to sleep. And then, so I’ve done something. At least every week I try to be able to say I’ve moved the needle like two or three days’ worth of work.

KJ (33:26):

Cool, but not at any specific time. The thing I was working on before everything changed in my sort of work routine was stopping at the end of the day. Stopping at five and moving on to other things. And I have completely ditched that, because now my day gets eaten up in different ways. I don’t have control over my daylight hours in the way that I used to. I mean, my partner’s gonna go to the grocery store for us today and it’ll take me an hour plus to deal with what he brings back into the house correctly. And so if at night I suddenly find myself able to like plow into a task. It was putting a bunch of videos on my website and all of a sudden I’m like, I can do this, there’s no way I’m going to shut that down. Because so often I just sit around going, I can’t do this.

Megan (34:29):

Yeah, well we’ve talked about that before. Olivia and I have about kind of working more intuitively with your time. And so if you have the energy to do something, you do it. If you think of the key to changing the manuscript in the drawer and making it not terrible, then you write all of those notes down. And maybe not start working on it because you have to finish something else. I’m not saying you need to wait for the muse, but when you do have lots of demands on your time, if something does strike, you have to get to it. At least take notes so that you can find your way back to it when you do have the time. But if you have the energy at nine o’clock at night and right now things are weird. And for me, if I sleep until 8:30 the next day because I stayed up until midnight writing, that’s okay. So you just kind of do things where you can, I got up this morning and my kids were already on their schoolwork and I was like, Oh, I’m awesome mom.

KJ (35:38):

How about you, Olivia? What’s your routine (or lack thereof) looking like right now?

Olivia (35:45):

My routine looks probably more consistent than before, but I don’t have any dependent small people. Basically I just am at my house more and because of the time difference, I need to start working two hours before I normally would. Basically every day I wake up and I journal a little bit after breakfast and then I work on my book like half an hour or an hour or however much I can fit in. And that’s pretty much like three out of five work days every week. Usually the beginning of the week is easier than the end of the week. And then I also usually put in a really long, however long I can carve out maybe the whole day, weekend writing day, which is good because it just allows me to not rush into my writing. Like I can whatever mess around on the internet for awhile. I know that it’s not like, this is not my like five star writing advice, but sometimes you need to do it. You know that feeling where you haven’t gotten to do anything fun? I’m always whining to my husband about whatever is leftover from when I was a teenager, but it’s like I didn’t get to like just mess around, you know. And so one day a week it’s really important to just, read those newsletters that you’re subscribed to, and click the links, and clear out some of the random things in your tabs. And then once you feel like you’ve done something fun on the internet, then turn it off. And then I work a lot more and I can usually, get like a thousand, 1500 words written, which is a lot for me usually. And then like another day on the weekend I try to take off and not do anything if I can. Just cause it’s good to not be so much online. But to Megan’s point about like thinking maybe in a bigger, so like work life balance or something like that, I don’t think that you can like do everything every day. So I also use a lot of my vacation to take writing breaks. Like during a normal work week, especially like Friday sometimes it’s slow in the office or so it’s pretty easy to take a half day or take a whole day and just sit with your book and spend a bit more time. I get better writing than for sure if I’m sitting for longer periods in front of the computer. It’s kind of logical if you’re trying to write for 30 minutes, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll do really well with that. Like you have to think of what you’re going to write and then write it down. But I think just sitting in front of my book three or four times a week, even if I don’t write that many words, it’s really important just to stay in touch with it. So I’m pretty religious about that routine. So I still do that. It’s just a little bit shorter in the morning, but also don’t have a commute and I don’t have to shower. So there’s pluses and minuses.

KJ (38:40):

Again, it’s a funny thing – I just had the thought the other day that I really need to lessen the number of things I expect myself to do every day. Because I’ve always been like, if you do it every day, then it becomes a habit, and then it’s great, and then it’s this, and then it’s that. And somehow I’ve got this list of 10 things that’s too many for my bullet journal’s little place where you can list things. It’s getting out of hand.

Olivia (39:29):

I am very good, like my main talent is thinking of new projects. And I can type quickly and think of new projects, but systems to get those projects done are disaster. So, I’m only basically allowed to have like one project at a time. And when Megan and I started our podcast, we were like, this podcast is cool but it’s not allowed to take away from our writing. So you need to think what is your real priority? What is the thing you’re really trying to do for me, especially if you have other responsibilities and then you put the effort into that and anything else you do is a bonus. But you have to think, okay, what is this one project that I’m working on right now?

KJ (40:08):

Yeah, I like that. Even now in sort of the midst of this craziness, having one North star if you will, and then the other things that can rotate around it. I don’t know, it’s feeling like at least a pretty decent approach.

Olivia (40:25):

Like my book is the only thing that is basically going well right now. Like everything else is kind of on fire.

Jess (40:34):

I actually just turned mine in, which means I’m now in my first flush of excitement on researching something new, which for me always picks me up because I do love the process of gathering up the research and diving in and organizing you know, just getting started and keeping my brain open that I’m going into the research with sort of a few ideas, but mostly with a totally blank slate thinking this could become a whole bunch of different things, which is always exciting for me, which helps cause I need something positive. So yeah, it’s really fun. So KJ and Sarina will be getting lots of texts about some minutiae that they have no interest in whatsoever.

Megan (41:52):

But you have to have someone to share that stuff with, because that’s what keeps you going.

Jess (41:59):

The analogy for me is it’s a little bit like having the pediatrician for the checkups after you have your infant because really no one else cares about the stupid small things that are like at the center of your universe. You just need one person or two people, I’m so fortunate to have like a couple of people who are willing to listen to the number of barrels of beer in the hull of the ship. Cause that’s what keeps me going. Cause it’s just you doing a deep dive in this weird, closed off universe and that’s not fun.

Olivia (42:34):

Yeah. Well and to your question KJ, about how do you get these things started if you want them. I mean you don’t sit around and wait for someone to start a writing group and ask you and I think a lot of people get bogged down in the planning part. You know, it’s going to be like this, especially for like a podcast. Oh, I need to learn all this technology and I need to buy equipment and you don’t, first of all. And really you just need to start and that’s okay. Like you figure it out as you go, because it’s like doing all the research for your book and never actually writing the draft. To extend this, you may ask people and they will say no or they will say yes and not have the time. And that’s okay, too. It’s like you pitch widely and eventually you hope someone will bite. And you know, we started a writing group through our podcast and asked for people who were interested and we have like a nice little core group. Cause we wanted a writing group and we had specific things we wanted out of it. And we wanted people who wrote differently than we do because they can, they’re better. They can like find things in your writing that you won’t see because that’s not your style. So but you just, you know, take a little bit of time to come up with what you think you want out of it and then ask, and then you just reassess as you go, but you just start.

KJ (44:32):

I remember Jess making a lot of friends in the comments to Betsy Lerner’s blog. And I know there are writers out there making friends in the Facebook group for our podcast. There are writers out there making friends in the comments to The Writers’ Well podcast, which is another one that is a favorite of mine. There’s lots of ways to do it. It’s just making the decision to put yourself out there and maybe now is a really good time to do that. Let’s talk about what we’ve been reading. Who wants to start? Megan, have you read anything good lately?

Megan (45:31):

I have, I’ve been reading some really, really good things. So I was lucky enough to get to pick up my library holds right before the library closed, for good. So I just read Megan Angelo’s book Followers and it is fantastic. Oh, it meets the hype. Like, sometimes books get circular blurbed around and we’ve talked about that. But this one completely lives up to everything. But it’s about the internet and the future and set in 2015 and 2051 and about reality celebrities and it’s fantastic. It’s thoughtful, but also really fun. And then I also just read Emily St. John Mandel’s newest book, The Glass Hotel, and it is also excellent. And as she says, it’s completely pandemic free. But it might be better than Station 11. I am not sure. I just loved it and poor Olivia, it’s not out in the UK yet and I keep sending her pieces of it and saying, you have to read this, but I forget you can’t go buy it yet.

KJ (46:45):

Awesome. Olivia, what have you been reading?

Olivia (46:56):

Well, one of my current projects that I invented since quarantine started is to read Emma. I’m reading Emma, it’s taking me forever cause it’s been hard to focus lately. But then I’m gonna watch all the Emma movies and Clueless. It’s wonderful. And it’s great to be not in this time period. So I really love that. And then like for research, but it’s not boring research. I’ve been reading, you know, spy novels and things like that as well. So there’s a new book that’s about Ukraine called, I think it’s called Independence Day by A.D. Miller. And it’s like one of the things I’m nervous about with my book is I’m writing about former Soviet union and I’m not like obviously from there. So I am reading lots of books by people who are not from that part of the world and like seeing how they get reviewed, and what people say, and also how they do that. So sort of research, but they’re interesting books so that’s quite fun as well.

Jess (48:33):

Okay. KJ, what about you?

KJ (48:34):

I have been reading a lot. I read something I wasn’t super overwhelmed by, although I finished it. So I guess I’ll leave that one to the side. I’ve been going in heavy for the just the fun books. So I just read something called Love Lettering and I will have to look up the author and put it in the show notes cause I don’t remember. It is purely romcom but it’s super fun. It’s about a woman who designs planners in Park Slope, Brooklyn. So the road to all of our hearts, right. That’s sort of the way into a romance is like to be intrigued by the side plot, the trope obviously.

Jess (49:28):

It’s by Kate Clayborne.

KJ (49:31):

And one of the reasons I had such a good time with it is that it’s sort of clear as you’re reading that something is coming, but I never guessed there’s a twist. It’s not a depressing twist. It’s just, there’s something going on that I did not see it coming and I liked that it came and it was fun and it just made it that much more interesting. And it’s fun to read something where you’re like, Oh, I never saw that coming. And it’s kind of rare, really. So Love Lettering, Kate Clayborne, liked it.

Jess (50:10):

Okay. I’m going to get that as my next audio book then. I am listening to Samantha Irby’s new collection of essays called Wow, No, Thank You. Her first one was Meaty and I’m sorry Samantha Irby. I can’t remember the other one. But anyway, I really am enjoying it. She is a very particular voice. And it’s also just funny. I mean, she’s exactly what I needed right now. In fact, I think the New York Times’ review of Wow, No Thank You was Samantha Irby couldn’t have come a moment too soon, this is exactly what we needed right now. So I’m really enjoying that. And she reads the audio book, so that’s been really fun. She’s really funny. She’s also, I have to say a great Twitter follow too. I really enjoy her Twitter feed.

Megan (51:25):

I love her Instagram since I’m not on Twitter.

Jess (51:28):

Actually for AmWriting purposes, there’s a chapter in Wow, No Thank You where she talks about how she completely flubbed an approach by a celebrity of turning Meaty into some sort of series. She had no idea. She didn’t understand the language of the approach and what this person was trying to convey to her. And it was really interesting because it was her first book and she was an outsider from her perspective anyway, in publishing and in sort of entertainment and so she just didn’t get what was happening. And it’s a really entertaining essay about what happens when a celebrity comes to you and is like, Hey, I’d love to sit down with you and talk about turning your book into a series and not understanding that that’s what was happening. It’s very entertaining.

KJ (52:17):

Well before we wrap up, let me just remind everyone, it’s always in the show notes and it’s always at the end of the podcast, but Marginally is a great podcast. It’s super fun and if you like AmWriting, you’re probably going to like what they’re doing. And it’s just like books. Nobody listens to just one podcast.

Jess (53:26):

Until next week though, everyone keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game. 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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