“When you know what you want to write about and you’ve convinced yourself,
there’s no stopping you!”
Three passionate authors on a panel called “Women: A Driving Force in the Publishing World” sharing their writing journeys — all the ingredients for an inspirational evening!*
Myriam Alvarez, a former journalist, penned Flowers in the Dust, a novel based the life story of a colorful distant relative. Ingrid Steffensen graduated from college professor to author after falling love with high-performance driving and sharing her passion in Fast Girl, a memoir. And Molly Raskin made a move from TV journalism to narrative nonfiction when she researched and wrote No Better Time, the biography of Danny Lewin, a groundbreaking dot.com entrepreneur.
Myriam self published her novel while Ingrid and Molly took the more traditional route: landing agents and established publishers. Drawing on their varied experiences and paths to publishing, the three debut authors offered helpful how-tos gathered along the way:
Tell a story that demands to be told: The panelists crafted wildly different books — a novel, a memoir, and a biography — but in each instance, a story “found them.” Ingrid wrote about a new-found passion discovered in midlife; Myriam was captivated by a relative whose story had languished for decades; and Molly was first introduced to her subject when she met a friend of Danny’s. Further research convinced her that his story needed to be told and that she wanted to write it. Be open and let ideas come to you — you never know how or from where they’ll arrive.
Leave your comfort zone: As a foreign correspondent, Myriam initially felt constrained by the principles of factual reporting, which dominated the first half of her novel. In the second half, she let jettisoned the reportorial model and found her voice. But before that voice could emerge, she had to let herself be uncomfortable and trust that a deeper truth lay hidden within her literary limbo.
Step “across the street:” As your story unfolds, it can be helpful to step away from it and ponder your work from a reader’s perspective. Ask yourself, “What do I want from a story as a reader? What captures me?”
Embrace the realities of publishing: Whether you self publish or land a publisher, as an author, you are responsible for getting the word out about your book. Fortunately, the Internet and social media have leveled the playing field. Be creative and persistent: Ingrid garnered a NY Times story in the automotive section by tapping her contacts. Word of mouth is pure gold: Tell everyone about your book and generate support through book clubs — women love to share what they love! Embrace Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and other social media tools, and use them consistently to connect with potential readers.
Relish your accomplishment: When you complete your story, give yourself time and space to savor the results of your hard work. Bravo, Ingrid, Myriam, and Molly — write on!
* Thanks to Chelsea Dodd and the Montclair Public Library for hosting this event.</em