I have always kind-of wanted to be a writer. I say “kind of” because It’s not a full time devoted desire, it comes and goes. Sometimes I also want to be a Marketing Director or the Chair of a Foundation, occasionally a Barista, but writing is the one I always come back to.
I sometimes come across bloggers who, as far as I can tell, have never published anything and yet offer sage advice on how to succeed. Then they get all manner of comments from other hopeful writers who compliment them on their insightful views and add their own bits of wisdom. I’ve read so many that I decided maybe I should throw my own 2 cents into the ring!
Therefore, drum roll please… My advice to anyone hoping to become a published writer is this:
Only take advice from published writers.
That’s it. I have no other advice for writer hopefuls. None. Zilch. How could I? I’ve never gotten anything published, really. Who am I to give advice? Why would you listen to anything I say. My mailman might have better insight on the publishing basics and he is all about reality TV.
I can tell you how to start a blog. It’s not difficult and has more technical instruction than words of wisdom. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but any idiot can write a blog (present blog included). When it comes to advice on being a published writer, I’ve got nothing.
In college I got an essay published in a school quarterly paper. I had planned to keep copies, I didn’t. I don’t even remember what it was about. Then on the NPR North Texas Regional website years ago I got an essay published as well. It wasn’t published so much as put on the website with a bunch of other This I Believe’s. It was about perspective and for weeks I would check the website to see how many people had clicked on the page. Let’s just say the numbers weren’t increasing their monthly website traffic fees. At all.
I, too, wish I could grab hold of some gem of advice about writing. Some bit of wisdom that would make the neurons in my brain suddenly fire only Pulitzer prize-worthy text with every type of the key pads. The only people really capable of giving great advice though on getting published are those who have been successful writers. The ones who are paid too well to want to dole out words for free. I think we should all begin a writing campaign that harasses them for their advice. However, I’m sure their success also qualifies them for an assistant that will promptly toss all those letters in the garbage.
Last year I published an essay in an small Austin magazine. That was a big deal to me and I bragged to anyone who would listen. It was also the only thing I’ve submitted to anyone since the NPR thing. Maybe the best advice is just to submit something, somewhere, to someone on a regular basis. But then again, what do I know?!
Nora Ephron once wrote that she had imaginary conversations with several chefs she hoped to meet. Whenever she cooked, she would talk to them about what spice she should add, what side dish to put with her main course, their thoughts on a particular sauce.
I, too, have an imaginary friend I speak with regularly. For about 10 years now, I have had imaginary conversations with Nora about movies I see, books I’ve read, friends and not-so-much friends, day-to-day activities, where we should eat the next time I am in New York and the list goes on. I am positive we would have been incredible friends, you know, if we had ever actually met.
I missed seeing Nora Ephron give a speech in Dallas last year. Since that time I periodically search to see where she might be speaking next, with the hope that I could be in close proximity. Hearing about her death this week makes me all the sadder to have missed her last year, but sadder still to lose the hope of actually meeting her in person in the future or of reading more of her essays or seeing another of her movies.
The following post is one I did last year after having missed her at the luncheon. Goodbye Dear Nora. I will miss you and our wonderful talks, no matter how imaginary they were to everyone else.
My Brush With Nora – Feb. 2011
I first fell in love with Nora Ephron after watching When Harry Met Sally. In the beginning, I mistakenly thought it was Meg Ryan I loved. Meg is great of course, but over time I realized we were too different to make it work. Later I decided it was Rob Reiner I adored, and while Rob will always have a special place in my heart, I now see it was Nora all along.
If you haven’t seen or read something Nora Ephron has written, you’ve probably been living in a cave for thirty years and you might want to start with learning how to google. Nora has a way of pointing out obvious and yet overlooked humor in common situations. She is what a good portion of comedic writers today and all romantic comedy writers aspire to be.
I am not a fan of celebrities. I find recognizable people to be overly beautiful and intimidatingly stylish. They are, as far as I can tell, imaginary people. If I were ever trapped in an elevator with one I would have nothing to say, which is saying something. As a rule, I try not to talk to real imaginary people. I would break that rule for a very short list of famous people and Nora Ephron is one.
As I type this, I am missing my opportunity to be trapped in an elevator with Nora Ephron. She is in Dallas today, speaking at a luncheon. I had intended to buy a ticket, but I waited too long and they sold out. At the luncheon I would have been a tiny dot sitting at a table in the back, just barely on her horizon. That didn’t diminish my dreams of running into her in the bathroom and striking up a conversation as we washed our hands. Or maybe she would feel our connection across the vast luncheon room and from her podium she would call to me. “You there,” she would say, “in the back. Yes, you. See me in the hallway after.”
I entered an essay into the Mother’s Day essay competition for Parent:Wise Austin Magazine. My “Mommy Clueless” essay was chosen and will be published in their May 2012 issue. As an added bonus, they are actually sending me money for my words. That has never happened before!
I’ve been published several times, but always in school magazines or on websites that haven’t so much as offered me free coffee. In all fairness, it had more to do with their struggle to survive than their lack of appreciation for my writing. I recognize now that it can be hard to pay a writer when you spend your spare time sneaking paper from open backpacks on campus, just to be able to keep printing your campus literary magazine. Also, I might need to actually submit my writing more often, instead of hoping they will find me.
The publisher and editor of Parent:Wise Magazine, Kim Pleticha, also attached a very nice note to my acceptance email. She said something along the lines of how much they all loved my essay and how the entire staff could not put it down and insisted on rereading it again and again. I am paraphrasing of course. She all but said she could relate to the wisdom in the essay and they were nearly in tears from laughing so much at my clever jokes. I think it was worded more like “we all enjoyed your essay” but I think everyone can read between the words on that one.
I humbly want to thank my parents and my husband and especially my children for giving me the inspiration to write such profound and thought provoking words that have hopefully amused and propelled at least one additional person to my blog. World domination is a slow and painful process, but I am happy to see that I am still on the right path! Never give up on your dreams, kids!
Thanks again Parent:Wise Austin! As far as I’m concerned you are the number one parent and local events magazine on the planet! And for the record, I think you are pretty-clever too!
I am not in the habit of using my boobs as a pocketbook. I don’t store money, credit cards, change, pens, sunglasses, make-up or anything else that I can carry in my purse in there, even though they would probably all fit nicely and unnoticed.
Since about 8 months after my youngest son was born, my breasts have retired to a nice quiet decorative lifestyle. I come from a long line of boob pocket bookers though and I have friends that regularly ask their “girls” to safe guard their valuables.
Yesterday I whipped my car into a space in a crowded parking lot and since I was in a hurry, I glanced around quickly to ensure no one was walking nearby. I then rushed to adjust something about them that was not right. Maybe one was slipping out the bottom of its holder and when I tried to pop it back into place, it popped out the top. There is nothing more irritating than a misplaced boob (although misplaced undies might rank near the top of that list also) so I took a little extra time to ensure it was properly seated, with everything in place.
I assure you, it was more attention than I have given them in months, maybe longer.
As I grabbed my purse and hurriedly turned to exit the car, I looked up to see a twenty-something young man, possibly of Indian descent, sitting in the driver’s seat of the car parked directly in front of me. He had his hands on the key in the ignition, but sat frozen, mouth open, wide-eyed and staring.
I was afraid this would happen. My husband has been spending more time with his elderly father lately to help get things ready for their move in with us. In the process, he has picked up a bad habit.
I thought it would be something along the lines of him deciding he wants to eat dinner at 4:30 or maybe he would begin a subscription for an actual newspaper. The one they print on giant thin sheets of paper, roll up and throw at your house in the wee hours of the morning. (This is still a real thing. You can call your local newspaper and ask for an old timey newspaper subscription. They will pass you around to a bunch of operators so that each one can ask if you are sure, and then eventually they will assign someone to sneak up to your house and throw stuff at it before you awake every morning.)
About two weeks ago we were going out for dinner. The parking lot was full and while looking for a parking spot, my husband suddenly stopped the car in front of the restaurant and said, “OK, get out.”
The kids and I looked at each other. What? Get out? Where? Here?
“There’s a car behind us now, hurry please, get out.”
So, we did what most people would probably do when a loved one stops the car and hurriedly tells them to hit the road. We grabbed our stuff and got out. Then we stood there on the sidewalk, looking at each other and wondering what to do next.
A few minutes later he ran up and said, “Why are you out here? Why didn’t you go in?”
“You don’t have to wait for me. Go in!”
That was the first time it happened. I was a little stunned and we didn’t even discuss it afterwards. We just ate dinner and I assumed he hadn’t been getting enough sleep.
Then last weekend it happened again and a third time last week. Each time with the expression “Get out.” So, on our fourth go around, I finally said, “Hold it! Why are you kicking us out of the car at the door, everywhere we go?!”
With a baffled expression he thought for a minute and then replied “So you won’t have to walk in from the parking lot.”
I stared at him.
At the bottom of this annoying new habit was a loving and kind gesture. I realized that he had been dropping his father off at the door whenever they went anywhere to spare his father and his father’s sore hip the trouble of walking in from the parking lot. Now, back with us, he was just extending this courtesy to me and the kids.
And so, with loving eyes I looked at him and said, “Well, knock it off! We are perfectly capable of walking in from the parking lot. In fact, it might do us some good!”
Now we are back to walking in from the parking lot and I am happy. I am still keeping my ears open for the inevitable whap on the front door some early morning, but I wish every bad habit we pick up through the years could be so easy to correct. God knows, most of mine aren’t!