Wednesday, September 19, 2007
At least, that's what my former colleague and publicity director Justin Loeber used to tell me when one of our company's books got a less-than-stellar review. The word is getting out there, that's the important thing.
I am trying to keep that in mind after a disappointing profile was published today in Seattle Weekly. The good news is that it's a lengthy article, complete with professional portrait. The bad news is that the reporter just didn't get me, or at least get the whole me.
He didn't say anything technically wrong or untrue. But I don't think he hit the mark that is, uh, me. First of all, let me just say that I love reading. I love fiction, I admire writers of all genres, be it J.D. Salinger, David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, Ian McEwan, or Amy Bloom (who's latest book, Away, is terrific, by the way).
I also love what I do and I am constantly challenging myself as a writer. I think there's absolutely a place for well-written how-to books. The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life and Backcountry Betty are both substantial books, chock-full of skills, crafts, cooking, and information. War and Peace they are not. But they aren't supposed to be. Tolstoy created a fictional masterpiece, but did he give instructions on how to knit, quilt, cure meat, or deal with dangerous animals in the wilderness? I didn't think so.
My next project is a memoir and it's proving as gut-wrenching as I imagine any fiction writing may be. I may have published a lot of books but believe me, none of them have come easy. The schedules for Prairie and Betty overlapped and had distinctly different voices. Prairie ended up around 45,00o words, Betty at 35,000—80,000 words in total written in a six-month period. I can't compare it to other writers' output (I suspect Stephen King would leave me in the dust) but this was a Herculean task for me, one I'm incredibly proud of.
One more note: I adore Richard Simmons. I admire his ability to connect with his audience and to have done it successfully for decades. He is a proven brand and there's a lot to learn from him. My reference to J.D. Salinger during the interview was in regards to his reclusiveness. I think it's extremely difficult to be a successful writer and a hermit. There's too much emphasis on sales and the marketplace. I didn't create the world I do business in, but I'm learning to navigate through it. Publicity and public speaking do not come naturally to me. I feel nauseous every time I step in front of a mic, but I do it to support the books that mean so much to me and took so much care and effort to conceive and write.
That's part of my job. And being an author is a job, one that I find incredibly satisfying and challenging.
Read the original article (photo by Steven Dewall for Seattle Weekly)