07 Aug Episode 223: #MythBusting
We take a bunch of myths about writing and tear them all up and throw them away
Write every day. Don’t read fiction while you’re writing fiction. My way or the highway. In a burst of frustration, we’re reminding ourselves—and you—that there’s no one way to get this job done, and if your way is counter to what some of the greats might tell you (we’re looking at you, Stephen King, even though we love you), that doesn’t mean it won’t work.
A few links from the episode:
Becca Syme: https://betterfasteracademy.com/beccasyme/
Me, Writing Books: MAN, I hope this is not stupid!! Me, READING books/watching TV/consuming basically any media: THIS IS SO STUPID I LOVE IT SO MUCH ONLY HAVE ROOM IN MY HEART FOR THE STUPIDEST OF THINGS, THANK YOOOUUU!!!!!
Sarina: Notes of Silencing by Lacy Crawford
Jess: Unacceptable by Melissa Korn & Jennifer Levitz
Unspeakable Acts by Sarah Weinman
KJ: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Our amazing sponsors: Dabble Writing Software, which I can’t wait to use to line up all my scenes and plot points AS SOON AS I START FIGURING OUT WHAT THEY ARE and which you should absolutely try.
And Author Accelerator. Jennie Nash is doing a Facebook Live coaching of a memoir outline on August 14, 2020—that’s next week. I can’t wait, I love watching her do these. Sign up here, or just go learn more!
KJ Dell’Antonia 0:00
Writers, KJ here. Have you heard me talk about Dabble yet? I mean really listened. Dabble writing software is our new sponsor, and we love them. Sarina and I can’t stop playing with the outline piece of it, which is every bit as flexible as a bunch of post it notes on your desk and a whole lot more portable. You can track everything that belongs within a scene, how that scene fits into multiple plot lines, and where that scene belongs in the book. And you can move it with the flick of a mouse. It’s honestly a little too much fun. We don’t want to encourage you to procrastinate, but getting your storyline right isn’t procrastination. It’s part of the work. So try out Dabble and let us know if it helps you get your work done by downloading a free trial at dabblewriter.com. Is it recording?
Jess Lahey 0:50
Now it’s recording.
KJ Dell’Antonia 0:52
This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone and try to remember what I’m supposed to be doing.
Jess Lahey 0:56
Alright, let’s start over.
KJ Dell’Antonia 0:58
Awkward pause. I’m going to rustle some papers. Okay. Now one, two, three. Hey, I’m KJ Dell’Antonia and this is #AmWriting. The podcast about writing all the things, fiction, nonfiction, short pieces, long pieces, entire books, be they small or long, pitches, proposals, and as I say every week, this is the podcast about sitting down and getting your work done or not, but trying. I am, as I’ve previously stated, KJ Dell’Antonia. I am the author of the novel The Chicken Sisters, which will be out in December of this year, which is 2020. I’m the former editor of the Motherlode blog at the New York Times where I still sometimes contribute and the author of How to Be a Happier Parent, which is out in paperback and available everywhere now.
And I’m Jess Lahey, the author of The Gift of Failure. And I have a new book coming out in April. I just finished the galley edits so it feels real, called The Addiction Inoculation. And you can find my work right about now when this thing comes out in the Washington Post, but I write for lots of different places.
Sarina Bowen 2:19
And I’m Sarina Bowen. I’m the author of 35 romance novels. And you can always find more of me at Amazon Apple books and everywhere romances are sold.
So today’s topic is kind of about keeping your head in the game.
Jess Lahey 3:06
It absolutely is. I’m optimistic. I’m going to go with the it is about keeping your head in the game. What is our topic for today, Sarina?
Sarina Bowen 3:14
It’s myths about writing. All the things that we have absorbed over the years that may or may not be true. And myths come from a place of cultural reference. So these myths aren’t out of left field, but we still want to examine them just to make sure we’re taking the right advice.
Jess Lahey 3:36
Well, I think it’s important to do that because some of these myths come from people. I mean, heck, if we took our oft cited David Sedaris advice about never, ever asking for anything, and that became sort of the way that writers were supposed to do things, then not a lot of writers would get stuff done. It happens to have worked beautifully for him. There are a couple of other authors that I’m going to cite while we’re talking about some of these, and it can become the word of the writers. And it’s not necessarily so because writing is different for different people.
Well, I think in particular, there is one myth that we really want to blow up today for all of our sakes. And that myth is the ‘you must write every day’. Am I right?
It can be a goal.
And you know, I think we often make it sound like we do write every day. And we often do write every day. But I think what we don’t talk about is that it is seasonal and cyclical. And that writing can sometimes mean other things.
Sarina Bowen 4:45
So I came up with the idea of myths, I mean, it entered my brain this weekend when I was listening to a talk by a writing coach named Becca Syme. And she was speaking at an event called Inkers Con that I was enjoying listening to. And she does some myth busting in hers but what she got to was that you have to examine the premise of these myths, like what premise are we accepting if we go along with it and KJ just said writers write every day and I would say that there’s an even deeper premise to that one which is writers right because they must, and this one always makes me roll my eyes. Because I am definitely a writer. You know, my whole career is set up around this, but I have never once looked in the mirror and said, I’m a writer because I must, it’s a compulsion for me. It’s not it’s actually my job and some days I just don’t feel like doing it.
Jess Lahey 5:55
I think that for me, it’s how I best express myself. I mean, I always would rather express myself in the written word than trying to explain something to someone orally. And that’s just my preference for how I tend to make the best contribution. Do I have to write? In fact, if someone said I couldn’t write for the rest of my life, I think I could be okay. I think I’d be fine. I may not be as well understood, but I think I would be fine. I’d have to make more phone calls. Oh my gosh, that would be the worst.
Sarina Bowen 6:33
You know, Jess, you just reminded me of that thing that happens at the very end of Spinal Tap the rockumentary. At the very end, when the credits are rolling, they asked each band member in turn, like, ‘If you couldn’t have rock and roll, how would you go on?’ And the first one says something like, ‘Well, but I’d still have the sex and drugs.’ And then the last one is like, “Well, I could work in a shop.’
Jess Lahey 7:19
But yeah, I think that the whole I have to write or I will perish is along the lines of I couldn’t live without you because I just don’t think those are healthy ways to think about the world, but that’s just me.
KJ Dell’Antonia 7:33
And you know, it is true that there are easier ways to make a living. So, you know, you probably aren’t doing this unless you want to do it, but I feel like have to is awfully strong. So the you have to write every day…Stephen King, every day including Christmas, right? Or whatever your holiday of choice is, just every day, sit down every day. When I am working on something, I do write every day, generally including weekends. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes you’re spending 12 hours taking a hike with your family. I guess what I’m trying to say is just you don’t have to. It is possible to stop for a week or a couple of weeks, or I have somebody that I was reading said in between every book they spend like a month just gardening. I don’t remember who it was. But yeah, when you’re in the midst of something, writing everyday is a good way to keep your hand in, and make sure that you know where to start, and that you’re still going, and that it’s going fine. And especially if you have deadlines or goals. But when you’re in between things, like I just turned in a manuscript and I don’t know what’s gonna happen with that manuscript, but because someone else has it, it’s pencils down for me. And I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do next. But if I was writing 1000 words a day without knowing what I was going to do next, that would not be pretty.
Jess Lahey 9:59
I have to second your thing about writing every day when you’re working on something because if I don’t write every day when I’m working on something, I number one get lost. Like, I can’t find where my brain was when and then it takes me like two hours to sort of get back into it. But I also feel like it gets stale for me a little bit. So when I’m working on something, I absolutely have to work on it every day. Sorry, Sarina, what were you gonna say?
Sarina Bowen 10:26
I was just gonna go one step worse than that, which is I get afraid of my own project.
Jess Lahey 10:31
Sarina Bowen 10:33
Yeah, I develop a fear about it. That I won’t like it as much when I go back and I won’t want to continue. It’s just a fear of the unknown.
Jess Lahey 10:44
It varies for me. There are times when even in mid-massive draft, serious know what I’m doing, have it all, sometimes you have to drive someone somewhere that’s 12 hours away. But sometimes I make it an affirmative decision to just be like not today, this day gets a cross.
And I love those days.
KJ Dell’Antonia 11:37
And that’s okay, too.
Jess Lahey 11:41
The week after I finished my manuscript and I went on vacation with my husband and my in-laws, it was so nice to say I am not writing this entire week and that can be incredibly freeing. And as it turns out, my brain had the space to think about other things and to sort of muse on other topics. And it was really, interestingly, a very productive week for me from a brain standpoint, but not at all from a writing standpoint, it was just so freeing.
But even mid project, sometimes there’s just a day when you either can’t or choose not to. And I don’t find that that stalls me at all, it’s fine. You know, that maybe shouldn’t be every other day. But yeah, you don’t have to write every day. So cross that one off.
I can relate to what Sarina said about getting afraid of things. Because I’m sure you’ve had this moment where you get that email about edits that need to be done and it feels so massive and unwieldy until you actually start and get into the document. And for me, my work always feels manageable when I’m in it, and it’s only when I stop being in it that it starts to feel like something I can’t even start. So for me it’s a bit of self preservation to stay as in it as possible. Otherwise it gets out of my arms and it starts to feel like just something that’s way too big. So it’s definitely something I have to do for my own, just moving forward kind of thing.
Sarina Bowen 13:11
Okay, KJ, what else you got in the myth box?
Jess Lahey 13:14
Oh, well, my current favorite myth is you shouldn’t read anything similar to what you’re working on while you’re working on it. When I was just getting started as a writer, I tried to follow that but it’s just not what I have found to be true. First of all, whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, I find that reading things in the genre or something similar, it’s not like I’m suddenly going to rewrite The Bromance Book Club by accident. I feel like it’s helpful, because it can be very freeing to be reading along and see what another author has done. Or how they’ve transitioned, or to realize that, gosh, I really enjoyed that book. And I feel like the character’s mother was a total force and presence, but I go back through and I count and she only appeared on the page four times. That’s amazing. So I can do that. And sometimes if I’m stuck. I’ll go and find the book where I know that an author has done something that I’m trying to do really, really well and either just reread it for inspiration or actually tear it apart. What do they do? What did they do here? What did they do there? Yes, dissection, our favorite thing. So I totally read in my genre when I’m writing. Regardless of what I’m writing.
Sarina Bowen 14:56
I tend not to, but also I work in a very tight corner of genre fiction. And so even though I might be reading a romance while I’m writing a romance, I like to work out of genre in my reading because I feel like I find the parallels more available to me there.
Jess Lahey 15:18
But you’re still reading. I mean, a lot of people say, ‘Well, when I’m writing fiction, I’m not reading fiction.’ And I’m like, Whoa, that’s big. And I’ve actually heard people say that, like that’s a really big chunk to let go of.
Sarina Bowen 15:35
Right. Sometimes when I do read really tightly in my own genre, when I’m writing it makes the possibilities feel smaller, not larger, because I can see all the ways that we’re all fishing in the same pond. Like they become more obvious to me even if the book isn’t similar at all.
Jess Lahey 15:54
Well, and sometimes I just feel like you know, if I rewrite someone that has really knocked it out of the Sometimes it’s just like, oh, that’s the only possible way to do that. And now I feel small and lost. And as though I will never come up with anything as brilliant as that particular logline, or plot twist, or whatever. So there’s that, but I’m not going to stop reading because of it.
I think I’ve said in the past that for nonfiction when I need a real hit of a voice that if I’m feeling a little bit not on top of my game, or I’m not feeling like an expert, if I go to a book where the expert voice is really, really strong it’s kind of like it’s like a rah-rah-rah kind of thing. It’s like watching you know, a master musician right before you need to go on stage and be a master musician yourself. It’s that sort of feeling of Okay, I can emulate that. It’s sort of a fake it till you make it kind of thing. If I get this boost, then I can sort of feel like I’m ready and up to the task. So that for me is an important part. It’s not that I’m reading the whole book, it’s that I’m dipping in for that expert voice, which is good for me.
Yeah. And sometimes let’s say I’m sitting here thinking, Okay, I’ve got my person I know who I’m gonna write this next book about, and I kind of know what they want and where it’s going to be. But I need to figure out what makes them act, like I need an inciting incident (as I think the story grid people would say) I need a thing, I need what makes them mad, I will think back to like the last four or five books that I read and liked and think well what pushed that roller coaster off onto the ride. And it’s not that I am now going to be like, I know, his wife left him, because my character is not a man and isn’t married. It’s just a way to sort of remind yourself of some of the things that move characters in books that you love. And hopefully help inspire some ideas. Honestly that one I’m still kind of struggling with…
Sarina Bowen 18:09
I saw a brilliant tweet that was kind of on this topic. It’s a tweet by Rachel Hawkins who is a lovely YA writer and she tweeted this out on July 17. And I loved it so much she says, ‘Me writing books, man I hope this is not stupid. Me reading books/watching TV/consuming basically any media. This is so stupid. I love it so much. Oh, I have room in my heart for the stupidest of things. Thank you.’ I hope I’ve done it justice. But she did such a great little play act there of the different ways we hold ourselves accountable of our own work versus reading that thing that you are enjoying so much or that inspires you.
Jess Lahey 18:58
Right and sometimes just realizing how goofy the inciting incident, or the resolution, or the reason that someone was doing something was, and yet why you sort of went right along with it happily, that’s super helpful.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, some of my favorite writing is my favorite because you can tell that the author is really loving the writing. And Sarina, some of my favorite stuff that you have written is stuff where I can just feel that you’re having a good time while you’re writing it. So I think that’s an important part of it. So yeah, I love that idea of not holding ourselves to impossible standards. What else do we have?
Well, I know we wanted to talk – today, I set my timer with the idea that I was going to spend 55 minutes noodling around on the plot of what I hope will be the next thing I’m writing and I’ve got several pages of assorted noodling. But the way that I get myself to the point of noodling is I’ll stack up like a couple of plot books near me and maybe even pick one up and read a little of it because as I’m reading it I’m saying, Okay, if you’re not really punishing the character, then nobody’s gonna stick with you. I’ll find my brain going, Okay, how am I going to punish my person? Like how’s this gonna go badly once they make this choice and that kind of thing. So they fire me up. How’s this for a myth? Plotting books are for amateurs. I don’t know that that’s a myth, but I think it’s a feeling that we have. Like if I can’t do it without resorting to looking at Save the Cat Writes a Novel then I shouldn’t be doing it at all. In which case I shouldn’t be doing it at all.
Sarina Bowen 21:07
Yeah, we’re able to give that myth a pass, aren’t we?
Jess Lahey 21:12
I think so.
KJ Dell’Antonia 21:12
Yes. I love sitting down with a good book that tears up the hero’s journey and tells you exactly what the twisty points are and what what the required elements are. And fine do them, don’t do them, whatever. But using that map can be so great. So that’s the myth. That if you use a map like that, you’re gonna produce formulaic fiction.
Jess Lahey 21:41
But you’re hitting on something really important, though. Is that if you’re talking about hero’s journey, what you’re talking about then is that some of that’s happening anyway on a really subconscious level. So I think one of the things – there’s this tension between it should just happen and that vision of Stephen King going down to his mental basement and channeling the magic satellite. And he talks about I don’t know where the book’s going because if I’m surprised by my own story, then the reader will be surprised. But I know for a fact that I have no mental basement where I’m going to go where the people in the basement are going to allow me to channel a book and that it’s going to be well plotted and it’s going to be well executed. And that just isn’t a thing for me. And I think that comes from a place of yearning, because wouldn’t it be a) super fun and b) wouldn’t it be just so fantastic to be such a natural at storytelling that you just have to quiet your mind and go to your basement place and suddenly you’re able to channel books and not that it’s that easy for him, but that there’s that myth that it should be that easy. And I think that’s what gets us in trouble.
Sarina Bowen 22:57
So the premise there is that novelists are born and not made. And that is such a dangerous premise because many of the people who grow up loving books so much and read them incessantly, just have never had a minute to analyze and dissect the manipulation that a good novelist is creating on the page. And, you know, the idea that we wouldn’t ever have to read a book about that is dangerous.
KJ Dell’Antonia 23:32
Yeah. I mean, personally, if I sit down and just grab a couple of characters and start writing, you know, will it be decent writing? Yes. Will it be entertaining? Yes, for about a page or maybe two. But, you know, without some idea of what their problem is and what they’re going to do to fix it and how it’s going to go wrong. I’ll just write a conversation for a really, really, really embarrassingly long time.
Sarina Bowen 24:11
I mentioned earlier that I had listened to this talk by Becca Syme and she had hit all these myths. And one of the ones that she gave really spoke to me because on the face of it, it’s not a myth at all. And this was the one she said, You can’t edit a blank page. And at first, I was like, hang on, you really actually can’t. But what she meant was that not everybody assembles their plot in the same way. You know, some people really need to think for a nice long time before they’re ready to write. And I think I am one of those people.
Jess Lahey 25:03
I’m one of those people definitely.
KJ Dell’Antonia 25:05
We were talking about that when we were walking the other day that, you know, you and I are both trying to develop a new plot. Basically, we’re both noodling around. And whether that’s scribbles and paper or just sort of mental scribbles, we are editing that, in some sense to find who we’re going to write about and what’s going to happen to them and what they’re going to want without having actual words. So, you can’t stick commas onto a blank page, or at least not with any degree of productivity, but you can edit your mental vision of where you’re going. Or your scribbled notebook vision of where you’re going.
Jess Lahey 25:51
Isn’t that really what I’m doing? I’m still trying to finish my Author Accelerator Inside Outline for this novel idea that I have and isn’t that just sort of front loaded editing because I’m saying, oh, this doesn’t actually move anything along. And especially since Jennie forces you to be so concise with your Inside Outline, it forces you to say, what is this actually adding to the book. And later on, if I want to have a whole entire chapter about them sitting talking about food for an entire chapter, I can stick that in later if I want, but at least at the beginning, I’m not wasting a lot of time by adding something that I think I need that will end up having no place in the book.
KJ Dell’Antonia 26:30
Right. You can write different ways, like some people would rather write it all and sort of figure out where it’s going that way. But you can edit your mental page, I guess is what we’re arguing here.
Jess Lahey 26:50
Well, Sarina has talked extensively about her efficiency and the outlining and how those two things are linked.
Sarina Bowen 26:58
I’m starting to figure out that outlining for me isn’t quite as simple as I had thought that it was, and that there are productive kinds of outlining for me and non productive ones. So that’s what I’ve been chewing on and why that you can’t edit a blank page thing really spoke to me.
KJ Dell’Antonia 27:17
I find I do a fair amount of scribbling in the notebook that I never go back to.
Jess Lahey 27:23
Yeah, I do that, too.
KJ Dell’Antonia 27:34
I write it down now sort of knowing that I will probably never go back and look at it. But there’s something about putting it in ink on that piece of paper that I don’t know locks it in for me.
Sarina Bowen 27:47
I do that too all the time. There’s just a certain number of rocks I have to turn over until I find the thing I’m looking for.
KJ Dell’Antonia 27:54
That is a good way to put it.
Jess Lahey 27:56
I think that gets back to where we were in the beginning, which is I think best in the written word on the page. And it isn’t until I sit down and start writing those things that I actually get to the bottom of what’s silly, stupid, works, doesn’t work. I can think about it all I want, but I’m not going to know if that thing whether that’s in an essay, or a nonfiction book, or a fiction book, whether it’s going to work in the end until it’s actually down on the page and I can look at it.
KJ Dell’Antonia 28:22
Yes. So here’s the thing. 800 word essay, I think well while I’m writing it. I can do that, because even if I write 1600 words, and then have to figure that out, that’s fine. 90,000 word book, not a good plan. For me. I think maybe I could get to a point where it might work because I have written more books. But right now, not an efficient use of my time.
Yeah, I was just telling you guys that I have a big feature coming out and the outline at one point was longer than the word count for the feature. But it was a very useful exercise because we had to go through that process to figure out what was going to end up at the end. And we couldn’t have done that without outlining first.
Jess Lahey 29:14
We’ve had some really good ones. And I think with all the myth stuff, it’s just reassuring to know that there aren’t a lot of wrong ways to do this writing thing. I mean, if words are getting down on the page, and it’s fulfilling to you and you’re feeling good about what’s happening, I don’t care if some other writer says you’re doing it wrong. I very specifically had a writer, look me in the eye and tell me I was doing something absolutely wrong. And it was the most crap advice I’ve ever gotten on writing, but realizing that was actually really helpful to me because I went, oh. And even the fact that I now look at this author that I really respected and see that she might be wrong about this, that demystifies the process for me a little bit and I think I’m gonna be okay. So I love when we can bust some myths up.
Sarina Bowen 30:05
Yeah, we’re busting them. I would say just that the overarching theme here is examine your own premise like if you look at your process like it’s a changeable, mutable thing, then it’s a very productive way to try to examine your process. Everybody wants to go faster. Everybody wants to write better work than they did last week. And looking at your process and what other people think about it from a couple paces back is usually a pretty helpful thing.
Jess Lahey 30:40
KJ Dell’Antonia 30:42
You know, and maybe that this has been a huge multi-month endeavor in recognizing that the rituals that we maybe once had and the places that we like to write, and the ways that we like to do things were not available to us anymore, especially if you were in coffee shops, or you like to say to write in a room that did not contain multiple children and partners who were trying to ask you questions about why there is no food in the refrigerator. You know, we don’t have that anymore, or maybe we need to find a way to find it. All three of us have lately been sort of wandering around going, oh, I can’t, I just can’t. And I guess busting the myths is kind of a way to try to find our way to say, okay, I can’t do that, but maybe I can spend half an hour trying to figure out what my plotting book is that I would like to read and then actually sit down and read it and hopefully do a little. So now that we’re done for the moment with our mythbusting, let’s move on to what we’re reading after a short break. Listeners, you know we’re about to get into what we’ve been reading. And we’ve been reading some good stuff. But have you ever thought about how those books get so good? Or maybe thought you could be a part of making an author’s novel, memoir, or nonfiction as good as it could possibly be, and get paid for the work? Author Accelerator has a book coach training program that students described as truly life changing. They dig into the mechanics, process, and emotion of coaching, but they don’t stop there. Their program also helps you turn coaching into a profitable business that fits into your life. Find out more at authoraccelerator.com.
Jess Lahey 32:54
Okay, people what have we been reading? If we haven’t been writing as much let’s hope some of us have been reading some things, I know I have.
Sarina Bowen 33:01
I did I read a memoir like a grown up. And it was the terrific memoir that Jess mentioned on another episode, which is Notes on a Silencing by Lacey Crawford. It was terrific. And I want to shake everyone from her teenage years. And tell them what for. I had my typical reaction to memoir, which is always my frustration that people’s early lives don’t have a perfect narrative arc, like some of my favorite fiction. She did an amazing job, it’s such a good book. And I enjoyed reading it very much, but it’s always jarring to me. And also I had another typical memoir thought, which is how do people remember things from when they’re 15? And she and I are just about the same age. She’s a couple years younger than I am. So I guess we’ll go with that. But finally, relating to today’s discussion, there were just some things about her experience and the difficult traumatic experience that she had to process that I feel like made me a better fiction writer. And I feel more competent at tackling maybe darker backstories just having Lacey Crawford make me think about that kind of trauma in one’s youth. So I enjoyed it very much.
Jess Lahey 34:40
Oh, good. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I thought she did a spectacular job. KJ, what have you been reading?
KJ Dell’Antonia 34:48
Oh, so I actually was able to go and sit by a pool by a beach last week. It was amazing and miraculous and made me feel as though the world was normal. In the process, I read two books. One of the things I read was total classic, perfect beach read even has the name. It was Jen Weiner’s Big Summer. It is extremely fun. It is a taco of a book that is delicious, and fun, and wonderful, and amazing to eat, and yet has some substance to it. It was great. Amusingly, because she is Jen Weiner, it is of course marketed, and covered, and titled as though it is women’s commercial fiction. It is absolutely 100% murder mystery. I don’t think that’s a spoiler because if you read the whole flap copy, you at least figure out that there’s something along those lines going on. This is like right down to the set of amateur detectives drawing out clues on a blackboard classic, every I dotted, every t crossed, mystery, super fun, super well done, and with all the wonderful themes of women’s fiction that she usually has. And yet it also has this mystery, which is really fun and entertaining. And it’s also just amusing that when you’ve got multiple best selling commercial women’s fiction books, you can write whatever you want and call it commercial women’s fictions. And I love that and support it. Go Jen. So that was one of them. And the other is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. So I go on my vacation. I read about the first half of The Vanishing Half, it is amazing is wonderful, but it’s also the kind of book that when you are reading it, you do not wish for anyone to poke you and ask for sunscreen. You’re deep in it and it’s kind of a grumpy book in some ways. And it is really, really good. This one’s the story of two twins who started out in 1950’s Louisiana. They’re black girls, they run away from home. One of them decides to pass as white, the other does not, and it comes forward, not the present, into like the 70’s and 80’s. But in a really amazing, and fascinating, and wonderful way. I loved it was really good. Excellent one, well worth your hardcover dollars.
Jess Lahey 38:12
Excellent. I’ve been reading some really good stuff too and now I’m excited I have two more books to read. I listened to Unacceptable by Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz. Melissa Korn is at the New York Times, Jennifer Levitz is at the Wall Street Journal and this is the story of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal case. And it is so good. The level of reporting is incredible. They do an incredible job; they read everything, all the details are there. She does all the characterizations really well. So it’s not just some extra bits that could have been added on to the articles you’ve already read. This is a really deep dive into how the whole thing came together and it’s beautifully done. I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you like that sort of thing. You know, procedural, but also juicy, all kinds of stuff. And then I also picked up a book – I follow Sarah Weinman on Twitter and I saw that she was talking about a new collection she has called Unspeakable Acts. And it’s a collection of true crime. She writes a lot about true crime. She has a blog about it. It’s sort of like that best American Crime Stories that used to be published, but she was the editor of this really lovely collection and there’s some really good stuff in there. There’s something by Pamela Koloff and a couple of other writers that I just really love. So I happen to really like the true crime genre and these are nice sort of bites of true crime and beautifully written stuff it’s a definitely a best of so I’m way into it. So Unspeakable Acts and Unacceptable are my two books, both huge thumbs up. One quick thing, if you are going to have people narrate a book in which (and this has nothing to do with the books I’m recommending) if you’re going to have people narrate a book in which there are foreign accents, even just if they’re British accents, especially if they’re British accents, please get a narrator that can do the accents. I just had to return two books over the past two weeks that I couldn’t listen to because the accents are so bad. So that’s my rant for the day.
KJ Dell’Antonia 41:18
Before we sign off, let me point out that some of the conversation that we talked about today, started with me shouting about not being able to figure out what plotting book I was looking for on our Facebook page, which is, of course, AmWriting on Facebook. And if you’re not in our Facebook group, you should absolutely join it. We have a good time. There’s a lot of people gathering up writing partners and creating accountability groups and asking questions, and it’s friendly and fun, and lovable so you should do it.
Jess Lahey 41:51
So that’s really fun. In fact, recently we had someone finally admit that they’ve been lurking but they were inspired by all the people who posted there. And so guess what? They got a book deal. I mean, it’s just the coolest, coolest place. I love it.
KJ Dell’Antonia 42:05
Yeah, that was awesome. And secondly, if you want to get the show notes for this podcast and every podcast, please sign up to get our emails by going to amwritingpodcast.com. You can sign up for the free show notes or you can sign up to support the show. And if you support the show, then every week you will get either a writer top five, or a mini episode that drops right into your pod player. The mini episode from last week as you listen to this, which for me is still in the future is going to be me talking about great fiction query letters. So if you’re interested in that, you’ll want to hop over and give us a little support. But even if you’re not we’d love to have you on the email list to get the show notes because then you always get the links to the books that we’ve talked about and everything else.
Jess Lahey 42:57
Alright. Perfect. That was Beautiful. Until next week 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.