How Many Dead Flowers Does It Take To Edit A Novel?

editing office

This is what editing looks like for me. I figure this is a service to aspiring authors and winsome readers who think writing novels is a pretty job. I mean, it started off that way with the crocheted blanket (circa 1992, made by my grandmother for my oldest when he was born), photos of my childhood street (the inspiration for my novel), the vase full of yellow blossoms, ample natural and artificial light, and a dog who lies on the bed and stares at me. The notebook on the floor is so that I remember to see it, which might not have happened if it was on the desk. It was there for days. The cups are coffee-scented reminders of days gone by. I rinse them when I remember, or when they become science experiments. I hate science.

And this, my friends, was two weeks ago.

So I’m sure you’ve surmised from the mess that IZZY is coming along great. The mess may be unbecoming but it’s not daunting to IZZY or me. I’m now fine-tuning IZZY into the character you all deserve to read about, with a story to match her wit, her troubles, and her resolve, and with secrets that will make you wonder what you really know about your own friends and family.

In addition to editing, I’m happy to say that winter has finally ended in Chicagoland. Although I’m definitely indoorsy, I have the potted herbs and hanging baskets to prove I have a bit of a green thumb, at least until it’s more than 100 degrees. Doing something besides editing—like gardening or exercising or driving or showering—always helps me work out a problem or issue with a scene or a sentence or a word choice.

As does snacking.

red fish

Red fish are a perk of the job. This writing gig is 24/7. IZZY and her cohorts are never far from my thoughts. My fingers are never far from a keyboard. Or SkinnyPop.

Editing a novel: it’s consuming, it’s enchanting, it’s hard work—it’s like rearranging your favorite furniture and then finding the room looks only a little different, but infinitely better.

Hope you’re enjoying summer! I’ll back with more IZZY news (like a new title, perhaps) as soon as I can be!

In the meantime, tell me: is someone’s character linked to the truths they tell, or to their lies?

Amy xo 

 

How Editing A Novel Is Like Carrying A Big Purse

Either the answer to my prayers or a full blown nightmare. Not sure which.

Either the answer to my prayers or a full blown nightmare. Not sure which.

JUST A NOTE: THE NEW TITLE FOR “FINDING IZZY LANE” IS “THE GOOD NEIGHBOR.” I HOPE YOU’LL LOOK FOR IT IN 2015!

I found a banana at the bottom of my purse. There was no smell, no recollection of a lost snack. I was just in there, elbow deep, rooting around for a tissue (didn’t have one), or maybe a lip gloss (always have two), and found fruit. I hadn’t even remembered putting it in there. Out it went. Obviously at some point I thought I needed a banana in my purse, likely an effort to stave off plummeting blood sugar on some lone suburban excursion. But when I found the banana I realized I hadn’t needed it when I thought I would — and there was no reason to save it. I had other awesome things in my purse (entire case of pens, mini hairbrush, four eyeglass cleaners, cinnamon Altoids—the best) and that I would never miss the banana.  I also realized that if I wanted a banana, I could always get another one.

At the end of the week I received my edits for FINDING IZZY LANE, my next novel. Getting those pages in the mail in a big envelope with a St. Martin’s Press return address was the same kind of rush I get when I find that brand new perfect purse. Granted, a novel isn’t perfect (ever), but especially not in the revision stages. Yet, there is inherent, undeniable thrill in potential. Like with an empty purse.

When I was writing FINDING IZZY LANE I took a somewhat different approach from when I was writing THE GLASS WIVES. Frankly, that was easy, as my early drafts of THE GLASS WIVES had no real “approach.” This time, I followed advice from my editor (as much as I could). She had told me once that it’s easier to take things out than put things in—so instead of writing sparse, which is my inclination, I tried to fill things out as much as possible, knowing that I could go in later and pull out what I didn’t need or want. Like the banana! When in doubt, I often left things in this version of FINDING IZZY LANE, that I might have left out had I been writing THE GLASS WIVES. And while there are certainly places I need to fill out and bump up in FINDING IZZY LANE, I am comfortable with the decision of what I left in initially. I thought I might need them, so they stayed. Now they’ll go. I believe they also gave my editor, and her assistant (who is awesome), a keen insight into the story and characters, even if some of the passages or scenes will be deleted or changed or moved around.

And that’s also like carrying a big purse, or even a small one (I have many of each). I have to make sure that my phone is easily accessible, and that a few key cosmetics are grabbable. I move things between pockets inside and out, check to make sure the key is where it needs to be. Doesn’t matter if it’s a wristlet or a satchel,  I’m a huge re-arranger.

When I’m writing, I think I know the whole story I’m writing but not necessarily the order in which it should be told. I am a cut-and-paste diva, just like in the olden days of my career in PR, I would literally cut and paste columns of copy to layout newsletters and brochures. I had a keen eye for being able to make everything fit and an uncanny knack for writing headlines that precisely spanned their allotted widths (thank you, Temple University Journalism degree). Nowadays, there’s no printing out and no rubber cement, but I still clip and maneuver sections to fit—but within the context of the story instead of on the page (that comes later, with page proofs).

And if there is something that comes out of FINDING IZZY LANE that needs to go back in, that’s possible too. Unlike old bananas, I save deleted lines and scenes. But like a banana, if I wait just long enough, I might go back and find that they stink.

I’m excited to get started polishing FINDING IZZY LANE. For the next long while it will be like that brand new purse I now carry every day, breaking it in, making it mine, having it feel like an old friend.

Yes, I love me my purses. And after a healthy time away, I’m loving FINDING IZZY LANE. Even if it was the merging of the two ideas that reminded me most people don’t pull a banana out of their purse and think, “OH MY GAWD. THIS IS JUST LIKE EDITING.”

Welcome back to my world, folks. We’re in for a wild ride.

Amy xo 

Want to read a bit about FINDING IZZY LANE? Click here.

Want to see my FINDING IZZY LANE Pinterest board, complete with what I call, Iz-pirational quotes? Click here.

 

 

The 10 Books On My Ideal Bookshelf

It’s almost one year since the launch of THE GLASS WIVES and one question I’ve been asked many times at readings, signings, and events is: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?

This is a question I not only hesitate to answer, it’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t have a favorite book, yet this answer seems uncomely for an author. So I say: “Whatever I’m reading at the moment.” And that’s true. I only read books I like and I only finish books I really like, the ones where I can crawl inside the pages and make a momentary nest away from everything else.  I knew books that were meaningful to me—but I didn’t have a list of favorites. Nor would my favorites necessarily be ones with scribble-worthy titles and trips to the book store. It was never important to me to have a list of favorite books. Not for myself or anyone else. There were just too many.

Then, for my fiftieth birthday I received a gift that changed that. The gift was that I could choose ten books and have a custom painting made of these books on my ideal bookshelf. Here’s a link to the artist’s website: http://www.idealbookshelf.com/. I had never heard of or seen anything like this before. And amidst a bevy of amazing birthday celebrations and gifts, this one was unique. And it was going to be hard work! I had to choose TEN books.

Perhaps someone else could ramble off ten, but I could not. I wanted these ten books to be meaningful to me in some IT’S-MY-FREAKING-FIFTIETH-BIRTHDAY-AND-PAINTINGS-LAST-FOREVER kind of way. I wanted these books to not impress anyone but me. Books that didn’t inspire anyone but me.

It took me about a month, maybe more, to decide. It was a serious charge, choosing these ten books. Not only did I want to do right by myself, I wanted to do right by the person who gifted this to me. This was not some willy-nilly point and pick. I wanted to have no regrets. Not to ever look at the painting and wish I’d chosen different titles. I made lists. I thought thoughts. (If you know me, neither of these surprise you!)

Now, a few months later, I can you, it was worth the effort, the lists, the pondering, the waiting. The photo doesn’t do it justice (plus it’s sorta sideways and complete with reflections). It’s 8″x10″ and I can see every brush stroke. I look at each book and know why it’s there, for me. The books might not be on anyone else’s ideal book shelf, but that’s what’s awesome. They don’t have to be! They don’t have to make sense to anyone else either, because to me, they make perfect sense!

ideal book shelf

Here are the ten books on my ideal bookshelf:

On Writing by Stephen King: This is the book that showed me my writing isn’t about me, it’s about the story. Huge lesson. Moved my desk into the corner, let the story come find me there. I can still picture the exact moment I realized this.

A Walk On The Beach by Joan Anderson: I mention this book in the back of THE GLASS WIVES. It’s my non-self-help, self-help book. It’s the only book I’ve ever read, cover-to-cover, more than once.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: I read this book in the 80s and it reminded me of myself. I never forgot what it felt like to see myself inside a book.

Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner: Though published to much acclaim in 2001, I didn’t read this until 2007 when I started writing fiction. There is a plot twist mid-book that grabbed me by the throat and spun me around in my writer pants. I hadn’t seen it coming yet everything made perfect sense. That’s what I want to do, I thought. It changed the way I saw fiction. It was my ah-ha moment.

The American Heritage Dictionary 1976: In 1977 as I graduated 7th grade from my elementary school (K-7) I was given the English Award. The principal said something like “There was no doubt among the teachers who should receive this award.” Then they called my name. And I received this dictionary.

The Glass Wives by me: Duh.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss: I read this book to my brother (6 1/2 years younger than me) and then to my kids. It was the book I used to hook my daughter into being a Seuss-lover like me!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I always wanted to be Beth. Yes, Beth. Plus, there is a character named Amy. I have read the whole book once, but portions of this book dozens of times.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton: Like the Weiner book, Clayton’s book had a direct impact on my fiction writing. I read the Wednesday Sisters when it was published and just wanted to be one of their friends. The characters stayed with me for a long time after each time I read a few chapters, then again when I finished the whole book. I knew that I wanted to try to write a book that evoked exactly that feeling in others. I was not only inspired, but challenged. No book since has had the same level of impact.

Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: What is there not to love about this entrance into the world of the Ingalls family? It was and remains my favorite of all the Little House books. I wasn’t able to pass on my love of Little House to my kids, but I can still see those illustrations in my head.

Which titles would make it onto your ideal book shelf? 

 Amy xo

 

 

 

 

 

Three Turning Points and a Tremendous Book Giveaway

The Three Turning Points

the endTwo weeks ago I turned in my second novel, FINDING IZZY LANE, to my editor at St. Martin’s Press! I’m pleased with the book and eager to hunker down with edits and get this novel out to readers, hopefully Spring 2015. But this is publishing folks, so of course, that could mean winter or summer or fall! I’ll write more about the book as time goes on, but for now, here’s the lowdown on Izzy!

Lies, love, and the internet collide when divorced mom Izzy Lane moonlights as a dating expert for a popular website, even though she hasn’t dated in years. In real life, Izzy has moved back to her childhood home with her five-year-old son, is still hung-up on her unemployed ex-husband, and spends weekends hanging out with an eighty-five-year-old neighbor who harbors secrets of her own. When Izzy discovers some lies can last a lifetime, she must decide if telling the truth to avoid that fate, is worth risking the friendships, love, and job she’s come to count on.

50Today, I turn FIFTY! Yes, that’s 5-0 and I’m fine with it! I bought myself a new pair of earrings and matching necklace from Etsy (I heart Etsy). Last weekend my daughter and my son came home from their respective colleges just to celebrate with me. I’ve had, and am having, celebrations with friends. In early March I’ll celebrate with my immediate family and a few cherished (I won’t say “old”) friends during a weekend away. Now, if random strangers would be kind enough to say I don’t look old enough to have a 22-year-old son graduating from college, that’d be super. I may be fine with fifty, but I’m not above a little flattery.

blogIn March, Women’s Fiction Writers turns THREE! I’d already been blogging for five years, but it took me six months to get up the gumption to start Women’s Fiction Writers in 2011. Then, WFW took on a life of its own. Thanks to all the authors who’ve participated and all the writers and readers who welcome it into their inbox and swing by once or twice a week. In 2013, WFW had over 37,000 views from over 137 countries. That, my friends, is another reason to celebrate. Want to see all the authors who’ve been here (and some to come)? Click here.

The Tremendous Book Giveaway

surpriseIn honor of these three turning points, and because I don’t yet have my new book to give away—as a thank you for hanging out here, and supporting me in all kinds of awesome ways, just leave a comment and 13 of you can each win one of 13 books by 11 amazing authors. You have twenty four hours to enter, and prizes will only be mailed within the United States. Tweet it or FB the link and add another comment for a double or triple entry (but that’s it, tweet it a gazillion time, still only one Twitter entry). You can also *like* my FB page and sign up for my newsletter (but if you’ve already signed up, please don’t sign up again, just tell me you’ve done so) to enter as well. Winners will be chosen and books awarded randomly (unless there’s one you’re dying to have, make a note of it, and if you win, I’ll do my best!). You can only win once. If you can’t be reached via email someone else will be chosen right away. Winners will be announced on the blog and emailed by Friday morning.

It’s easy. Leave a comment, tweet, like, or click to win a book. Good luck!

Amy xo

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Four Authors Walk Into A Bar

Okay, it was a restaurant, but still.

Renee Rosen, Me, Amy Hatvany, Nicole Lynn Baart

Renee Rosen, Me, Amy Hatvany & Nicole Baart

Last weekend I attended the Heartland Fall Forum in Chicago, an annual trade show where Midwestern booksellers get to check out the latest books from big, small, specialty and regional publishers and meet with authors. That also means that authors get to spend time meeting those booksellers and talking about books.  And as you can see, authors also get to hang out with each other.

The lessons I learned at Heartland are lessons for any writer who wants to be out and about talking about his or her book, either now or some day.

Four Lessons I Learned At Heartland (Before I Got To The Bar)

1) Wear comfortable shoes. My shoes were very comfortable when I walked around the house, got in and out of the car and went out for dinner, but hoofing it all over a conference hotel was a different story. I also learned that Band-Aids in hotel gift shops cost about 50 cents a piece. And are worth every penny.

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A New Year, A New Post, And A New Look For Women’s Fiction Writers

In honor of forging ahead with my new novel (untitled), jumping into my new stage of life (empty nest), celebrating the Jewish New Year (5774) and scheduling many new book events (calendar to be updated), Women’s Fiction Writers has a new post by me and—a whole new look (but no more parenthetical phrases)!

I hope you like the new digs as much as I do! 

Amy xo

A Writer’s Ring Of Truth

photo (13)It’s been a while since I wrote my own post on my own blog.  I’ve spent the summer promoting The Glass Wives, writing my next novel (still untitled), working on freelance editing projects, looking for a job outside the house (I’m “opting in”) and mostly, getting ready to send both kids off to college. No, it didn’t take all summer to shop and pack and prepare the kids. It took all summer to prepare me.

And it will probably take a little longer.

It’s not like I’m new to life-altering changes, but each one seems to be like the first.  Except for one thing.

This time I know I’ll be fine.

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Seven Lessons From My Debut Book Tour

Two months ago when THE GLASS WIVES was published, I started my career as a published author by celebrating with friends. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I did my first event. It’s counterintuitive at times, to realize that I spent years writing a book alone, chatting with writers and authors online, and now, part of taking my career to the next level meant standing up in front of real live people and talking. I was nervous but excited by the prospect of doing it. I’m not shy, nor am I an introvert. But this meant being fully responsible for the experience of the audience. Yes, people are responsible for their own happiness—but book events almost transfer the author into the role of entertainer.

Don’t let that deter you or scare you. The things I learned on what I loosely describe as my “book tour” which consisted of eight events in the Chicago area, ran the gamut. I spoke to a high school creative writing class, a crowd of two, a crowd of fifty, and I participated in a group reading, and a panel at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest. My one “out of town” event was in my own hometown of Philadelphia, where I knew, or knew of, all seventy people in the audience. I was related to some and had known others since elementary school. I had not seen many of them in thirty years. Or more.

And while these lessons were based on my experiences over the past two months, and your mileage may vary, I’m thinking that the debut author experience is a somewhat universal one.  I’ve also been told that every book feels like a debut, so I’m going to make sure to read this list in 2015 when my next book comes out! (More on that soon!)

Amy xo

SEVEN LESSONS FROM MY DEBUT BOOK TOUR

1. People are not there to see you fail. 

This was kind of a revelation for me. Not that I ever thought I’d have hecklers, but the acknowledgment that everyone was there because they wanted to be, with an expectation that they would walk away pleased, kind of freed me from feeling pressure. I’m not sure why. Just remember, the people in the audience are in your corner, whether you know them or not.  Unless you have a nemesis who attends book events, of course. But really, look around. People are smiling. (So smile back!)

BOOK LAUNCH CHLOE CLASS

2. Don’t feel compelled to read.

What I mean by this is—read your audience. If it’s filled with people who’ve read your book, you might be able to refer back to certain scenes when you talk. If your audience is mostly people who’ve not read your book, or there’s a mixture, read a bit, talk a bit, then read again. I’ve been to readings where I’ve thought “I can read it myself, talk to me.” And there are times I was riveted by an author’s audible rendition of her own work. Know your strengths. We’re all storytellers so remember to tell a story.

book launch flossmoor 9

3. Leave plenty of time for questions.

People are curious by nature, and if your book talk touches on different topics, you’ll spark the audience members’ imaginations. And moxie.

book launch flossmoor 8
4. Serve snacks.

Even if you go home with most of them, it emits a generous and welcoming vibe. And fully bellies make for happy listeners. Will some people just come for the cookies? You bet. Maybe next time they’ll come for the cookies and the book!

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5. This is a celebration. Don’t forget it. 

It’s easy to let nerves get the best of you sometimes. Remember this is a celebration of a book and its author. Go out before or after. Toast with friends and family. Don’t shy away from letting it be all about you this once.

book launch renee 2 book launch glen ellyn dinner


6. Every event and sale is worthwhile.

I drove an hour and a half to a book store and there were two readers in attendance. I’d been alerted by many author friends that this happens. But if you add in my daughter, her friend, and two booksellers, there were six people in the audience. I sat in a chair, talked about my book, read a bit, and talked some more. Then the readers and booksellers asked questions. Books were sold. Then I spent an hour talking to the booksellers about books and publishing. I knew it was a worthwhile trip, even if we did get lost on the way home.  And just the other day I was invited back to speak to this store’s in-house book club. Why? Because the book sellers read and talked about my book. And probably because they could tell I was happy to be there even if we didn’t fill the room.

book launch lake forest 4

Two! These are the two! There were four people behind them. My daughter deftly took this photo to hide the fact that there were so few in attendance, but I’m coming clean!

book launch bn panorama

A crowd of seventy from my point of view!

7. And my most important lesson of all? The one I can’t deny any longer no matter how hard I try? (And I do, believe me!)

I talk with my hands. 

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Back To Women’s Fiction Writers Business-As-Usual. Almost!

On Tuesday on WFW, I’ll start once again posting interviews and guest posts from some of your favorite and new-to-you women’s fiction authors. Oh yes, along with my own news and views on occasion (one perk of hosting this site).  

But today I wanted to tell you about Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago. It’s June 8-9 in the—you guessed it—Printer’s Row neighborhood. I’ll be on a panel on Sunday, June 9th at 3pm with Henriette Lazaridis Power and Thea Goodman, moderated by Parneshia Jones. You can find out more about Printers Row by clicking here. It’s all free, you just have to register for a ticket to attend!

In preparation for the Lit Fest, I was featured in the Chicago Tribune on Saturday and again in the Trib’s Printer’s Row Journal today. 

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 7.07.51 AMI have to say it’s very strange—yet I feel very fortunate to be included in the Tribune and to have THE GLASS WIVES celebrated so publicly.  

Something else going on that you may have caught wind of on Twitter or Facebook, is that I’ve signed another book deal with Brenda Copeland at St. Martin’s. Yep! I get to write another work of women’s fiction, FALLING INTO PLACE. This one is about Izzy Lane, a divorced mom and anonymous blogger whose lies about a wonderful (fake) boyfriend land her a job as a relationship columnist with a popular website. The problem is, she hasn’t dated in years. FALLING INTO PLACE explores not only the way one’s online life can intrude on real life, but why someone lives with ‘life lies’ and what has to happen to make her come clean and deal with the consequences. In Izzy’s case that’s not only her family and friends, but her readers.  

And in addition to all the book hoopla, today is my daughter’s high school graduation and on Friday my son heads to New York for a summer internship. We are a very busy family! 

I hope you’ll stick around for the next part of the writing and publishing journey and lots of new interviews with women’s fiction authors. WFW is scheduled through October 2013—but just let me know if you or someone you know should be included!  

Thanks for everything!

Amy xo

Recipe For The Perfect Launch Party

When it was time to think about celebrating the arrival of The Glass Wives, I thought I didn’t want to have a party. Then I realized that you only have your first book come out ONCE (although author Melanie Benjamin tells me every launch feels like a debut).  A fabulous friend generously offered to host a party for me at her home. I made a list of the people I wanted at the party. The list was short. Yes, her house could have accommodated a larger crowd, but I did not want to celebrate with a lot of people, only the people, for the most part, who were real friends and had be truly supportive through the process of writing and seeing my book through to publication.  The people who were there before the book and would be there after the book. The people who would have been there if there were no book. And that’s what made it perfect for me. And for the first time in a long, I did allow it to be about me. Actually, most of my friends insisted upon it. 

I knew were the right people to invite.

Amy xo

Recipe For The Perfect Launch Party

(as seen on The Debutante Ball)

First, you’ll need two packages of the best napkins on the planet.

napkins

Then, you’ll want to find a wonderful friend and host.

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Slowly add her homemade tea cup candles to the table-scape.

launch party candles.jpg

Then, add one BFF who flew in from 800 miles away.

Photo on 5-14-13 at 5.38 PM #2

Mix in one critique partner you met online, but now count on in real life.

launch party pamela.jpg

Stir in a huge stack of books to sign. Approximately thirty, or to taste.

launch party signing.jpg

Sprinkle with great friends and one amazing daughter. 

launch party bunch.jpg

Top with wine and food (and rugelach favors tied with a bow) and enjoy!