Want To Write A Book? You Sure?

  As the pushpushpushpushpush of book promotion and marketing for “Malled’ My Unintentional Career in Retail” continues — today offering interviews with two Canadian newspapers, a photo for my local newspaper and a radio interview — time for a reality check on the reality of book-writing.

Yes, this photo is of me, summer 2010 — mid-revisions!

Writing a book, for me, is a tremendous joy. I love having months to think long and hard about what I am trying to say and how. I love doing interviews for background and a better understanding of my subject, and reading entire books — ten for this one, on low-wage labor, retail and management — to make sure my individual impressions aren’t overly personal and limited.

But, having just attended the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference in Manhattan, I also appreciated listening to the comfort and wisdom of more experienced friends who have published five or six or eight books.

They all know the giddy excitement of signing that contract with your publisher, getting the manuscript in and accepted, publication date — and the anxiety over reviews. Will you get any? How will you handle the savage ones?

Writing and promoting your book(s) is an extraordinary process. It can also be an emotional roller-coaster.

At a dinner table after the conference, four of us — who had never before met — brainstormed how one of us, a fellow Canadian, might best introduce his non-fiction book, The Erotic Engine, into the American market.

Three of us: a education specialist from Vermont, a home decor writer from Florida and I all gave it our best efforts, all while eating some great Italian food.

I love and live for this sort of generosity and camaraderie. At the conference, when I went up to panelist Kathleen Flinn, whose memoir of attending cooking school in Paris, “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry” was one of my favorites, she was excited to meet me. (!) She’d heard about Malled, as had many people at the conference.

Becoming a published author and climbing the many necessary steps along the way: finding an agent, writing a proposal, finding a publisher, writing, revising and then tirelessly marketing and promoting it, is a little like joining the military.

Really want to write and sell your book? Drop and give me twenty, soldier!

Whatever branch of service — cookbooks, YA, memoir, biography, history — we earn those stripes! We all experience many of the same issues and challenges and — like veterans of battle — know that we all know intimately what others only fantasize about.

Writing books means joining a long ladder of success, with many rungs.

Some books become huge best-sellers, leaving the rest of us gnashing our teeth in envy. Others become films or television series. Many find their own niche, buzzing along through social media and word of mouth.

Some just…die.

Do you hope to write a book? What do you hope to do with it?

What steps are you taking to get there?

An American Journo's Journey Through Le Cordon Bleu — C'Est Super!

Cover of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Les...
Cover via Amazon

As readers of this blog know, I am crazy for Paris, food and cooking.

I just read a lovely memoir, “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry” by American writer Kathleen Flinn. It tells the story of her getting fired from a Fancy Job in London and then, instead of being sensible, spending all her savings to move to Paris and study at the legendary French cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, a dream of hers for decades.

I read it in one big gulp, loving the descriptions of ferocious French teachers whose criticisms — which she initially barely even understood — sometimes left her, at 36, in tears. I studied in Paris at 25, so I loved reminiscing about the odd mix of formality and warmth you find there. Not to mention that she ends each chapter with a delicious recipe to try.

Some of the scenes are hilarious, like the lobster who escapes in class one day and the Japanese student who chases it around the room (shades of Annie Hall!) Flinn manages to survive a kidney infection, horrible houseguests and many minor kitchen dramas.

You’ll never chop an onion or look at a bechamel the same way again,

Here’s her blog, (which contains a very cool link to a portion-control website.)