Thursday, July 23, 2015

Separating real life from the writing life

Last night Writer Abroad told Husband Abroad that she was doing pretty well separating herself from her work.

He replied, “But you ARE your work.”
The Vox Article
Writer Abroad disagreed. “No, I am not my work. I emotionally detach myself from anything I write after I write it,” she said.

He didn’t get it.

Is Husband Abroad his IT? Does being Manager of Lots of People define his soul? No. So being a writer shouldn’t define Writer Abroad’s—even when she’s writing about real life. Her life. 

So Writer Abroad added, “I can’t worr
Which lead to the tabloid article
y about what half a million people reading my latest piece think. I have to ignore their comments. Ignore, in a way, that my work is even out there—while at the same time promoting it."

Finally he said, “I guess I can’t relate. I get 5 likes on my Instagram photos.”

Here's the thing: I don’t think anyone who is not a writer—especially one who is writing personal essays or memoir—can relate to how one must go about living with having part of their soul out there. The key word, though, is part.

The world knows a small part of Writer Abroad’s story today. Her photos and an exaggerated version of the story are once again in one of Switzerland’s tabloids this evening. Her latest story was tweeted 1600 times and counting since yesterday. 53,000 Facebook shares. And counting. Which in turn sold over 50 books that tell yet another story about her life. The cycle of a writer goes on and on.

It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. But luckily, Writer Abroad has learned how to deal with readers knowing more about her life than she knows about theirs (even if some of them tell her quite a lot about their own story in their emails) by separating her life as it is shaped on a page and her life as it is in reality. It’s a subtle difference. But it’s an important one.

Do you separate yourself and your work? If so, how?

Monday, July 6, 2015

3 New Memoirs on Expat Life in Asia

If you're like Writer Abroad and love a good travel/expat memoir–specifically one that deals with Asian cultures, go East, dear blog reader, go East. In June, three new memoirs by women writers were published. One of the books is by Tracy Slater, who previously contributed to Writer Abroad back in 2013.

The Good Shufu is a true story of multicultural love, marriage, and mixups. When Tracy Slater, a highly independent American academic, falls head-over-heels in love with the least likely person in the world--a traditional Japanese salaryman who barely speaks English--she must choose between the existence she'd meticulously planned in the US and life as an illiterate housewife in Osaka. Rather than an ordinary travel memoir, this is a book about building a whole life in a language you don’t speak and a land you can barely navigate, and yet somehow finding a truer sense of home and meaning than ever before. A Summer ’15 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, The Good Shufu is a celebration of the life least expected:  messy, overwhelming, and deeply enriching in its complications.
Putnam/Penguin, June 30, 2015
When a bookish 22-year-old follows her Eurasian boyfriend to his hometown of Hong Kong, she thinks their long distance romance is over. 
But a month later his company sends him to London. She embarks on a wide-eyed newcomer's journey through Hong Kong—alone. 
The city enchants her, forcing her to question her plans. Soon, she must make a choice between her new life and the love that first brought her to Asia.
Blacksmith Books, June 7, 2015 
At 30, Californian Leza Lowitz is single and traveling the world, which suits her just fine. Coming of age in Berkeley during the feminist revolution of the 1970s, she learned that marriage and family could wait. Or could they? When Leza moves to Japan and falls in love with a Japanese man, her heart opens in ways she never thought possible. But she’s still an outsider, and home is far away. Rather than struggle to fit in, she opens a yoga studio and makes a home for others. Then, at 44, Leza and her Japanese husband seek to adopt—in a country where bloodlines are paramount and family ties are almost feudal in their cultural importance. She travels to India to work on herself and back to California to deal with her past. Something is still not complete until she learns that when you give a little love to a child, you get the whole world in return. The author’s deep connection to yoga shows her that infertile does not mean inconceivable. By adapting and adopting, she transcends her struggles and embraces the joys of motherhood.
Stonebridge Press, June 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

What to do with writing rejections

Writer Abroad has been reading an interesting book called Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang.

It’s about an entrepreneur-turned author’s personal journey with rejection. To battle his fear of rejection, he develops 100 tasks that he believes will lead to rejection in order to learn how to deal with it.

In the middle of the book, he includes a section on writers and rejection, since no one knows rejection like an author. He lists how many times famous books were rejected by agents and publishers until finally being published. The lesson, of course, is that much of rejection is opinion. Does the person you’re asking like your idea and writing or not?

To find a person who likes your work, it can sometimes take 100 agents or publishers. In other words, it can take persistence and a lot of time. In the age of independent publishing and the tendency for big houses to only publish already-proven authors and/or celebrities, how persistent should you be? Or should you even waste your time with traditional publishers?

Writer Abroad isn’t sure she has an answer to that. She knows some authors that are purely independent and never submit to traditional publishers. She knows other authors who would never dream of self-publishing—even if their work is rejected. And then there is Writer Abroad, who is open to either and thinks there is usually a clear answer to what you should do depending on the kind of rejection you receive from big publishers.

With Writer Abroad’s first book, the feedback from traditional folks was that her market was too small. That opinion seemed consistent. The rejection wasn’t about the writing or the idea—it was about the size of the readership who would appreciate it.

She could have scrapped the book because of that. But instead, that kind of rejection led Writer Abroad to publish the book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known, through her own press. Because small markets are great for independent authors—they are easier to target and market to. And since independent authors get bigger paybacks, a book with a smaller market can still make sense for them financially even if it doesn’t for a big house.

Whether to publish after “traditional” rejection depends a lot on your project. Do you have the ability to target and reach potential readers? Do you have the money to hire a good editor and designer(s)? How set were you on having the “status” of being traditionally published? Is the writing great and have you been published enough to be able to claim that? All good questions to ask.

How to do you decide what to do with rejection?

Monday, June 15, 2015

How Technology Changes How We Live Abroad

When you live abroad for almost a decade, you can’t help but wonder how the distance will affect your relationships with family and friends back home. Technology changes things—it makes it easier to connect than ever. But it also makes it harder to hug and can trick us into making far seem close.

When Dinnertime is also FaceTime
Writer Abroad wrote about this phenomenon in a personal essay titled, See that blurry prone-to-freeze image? That’s your new granddaughter?, which is included in her book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known. She also researched how technology affects our lives abroad and wrote about it in a two-part series for Wall Street Journal Expat, the second of which was published today.

Part One

Part Two

How has technology changed life abroad (or at home) for you?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Going home to the world

Something happens when you move abroad—you become forever international.

Writer Abroad thought she’d move back to Chicago, get a job at a Chicago agency or publication, and that would be that.

Instead, she maintains her internationally-minded career from the comfort of her own home.
Working with the world…from home.

In a single day she can be on a phone call with someone in Berlin, be messaging someone in Zurich, and be discussing Swiss culture with a German journalist who is based in New York City. In fact, these days, almost 90% of Writer Abroad's work comes from places more than 500 miles away.

It’s strange, but it’s also wonderful. Wonderful that it’s possible to go home again but still work with the world on your own terms—because that was one of the things that made Writer Abroad nervous about going home again: the smallness of home.

But she’s learned that once you go out into the big, wide world you’re always a part of it, even at “home.” 

Anyone else have this experience too?

Friday, May 8, 2015

5 Big Lessons Learned a Year After Publishing the First Book

You don’t need a marketing budget.

This does not need to cost anything.
Yesterday, on the one-year anniversary of publishing her first book,  Writer Abroad ended up on the cover of one of Switzerland’s biggest tabloid papers

In the last year, she gave several radio interviews, appeared in various magazines and newsletters both on and off-line, and also on many blogs. She spent nothing on any of this promotion. The key to good promotion is to:

1. Make relevant contacts far ahead of book publication—people you can draw on later who will happily help you out since they know you.

2. To have at least a rough promotional plan ready well before you launch your
book (it will help you with number 1).

Some promotion will just happen
based on other things you are doing.
3. To keep writing for publications on topics related to your book and include your book in your bio. Writer Abroad's bio in one New York Times article led to over 100 book sales within five days. Her book was selling right up in the ranks with David Sedaris' newest book—for 24 hours anyway. But it proved that in the age of online book shopping, links in the right places matter. Not big marketing budgets.

You need to start writing the next book right away.

About a month after Writer Abroad published her first book, a traditional publisher came to her with an idea for a book. They later rejected the idea of publishing it because they felt the production and marketing budget would cost too much (crazy from Writer Abroad’s point of view—see point one above), but nevertheless, she was grateful for their inputs anyway. Why? Because at that point, she was already 25% through writing it, had a concept developed, and now, just a year after publishing her first book, this new book’s first draft will be complete by the end of the month. Does she need the traditional publisher to publish this book? Thankfully, not at all. In fact, if her numbers are right, within one year of publication, she will be much better off financially without them. And she also controls all of the creative production process, which, as a copywriter with over 10 years in the ad industry, she enjoys managing.

You should take advantage of affiliate links.

All authors should do this—even those who hate amazon. This author loves amazon, but that’s another topic… Anyhow, at the very least you should sign up for the Amazon Associates Program. Then, any links to your book that you have on your website or elsewhere should link to your associate name, which will pay you around 5-6% of the selling price should someone click on the link and purchase it directly. Not only that, but if the buyer purchases other items after clicking on the link you’ll get 5-6% of whatever they buy—even if they don’t buy your book. It adds up. In a good month, it can mean an extra $100. And if you hate amazon, well, think of it this way: that’s 5-6% of the price of an item that amazon isn’t getting—you are.

You should never stop promoting.

Of course the busiest promotional period will be leading up to your launch date and in the couple months that follow. But you should never really call it quits when it comes to book promotion (it doesn’t cost anything, remember?), even if, like Writer Abroad, you end up simply promoting the book in your bio that appears after all the freelance writing work you publish. Some links do nothing, but others can sell a few—or a hundred books. Online links are most effective, but it never hurts to include info about the book in a print publication either.

There are no secrets except to work hard and to believe.

Writer Abroad often gets emails from writers wanting to know how to get into writing or how to improve their chances of publication. There are no secrets. The answer is to treat writing like your job (even if it’s just your hobby at the moment) and sit in a chair almost every day and write. Write when you’re tired. Write when you’re not inspired. Write when you’re depressed. Make no excuses and then and only then will your writing move to the next level. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes over 10,000 hours to master something. You’ve got to put in your 10,000 writing hours, which will probably take about 10 years. Then you can expect to see results.

Also, don’t give up. Don’t let rejection get you down. Easier to say than to do. But if Writer Abroad had given up after traditional publishers told her that “no one cared about Switzerland” then she wouldn’t have the niche she has today. And if she had given up the book she had started writing last year after the traditional publisher came to her and then dropped her a few months later, she wouldn’t have another almost-completed book right now that she believes in and loves.

Anyone else have tips for writers or things they learned after publishing a book?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 Reasons Becoming a Parent Makes You a Better Writer

It’s easy to make excuses as a new parent. There’s no time to write. You’re too tired. Or your child is sick. Writer Abroad understands all of them. But she refuses to give in to any of them. Instead, she pushes herself to make the best of the time, energy, and enthusiasm she does have, and therefore, she has found that her writing career has only improved since her daughter was born. Here are five reasons why.
Don't let becoming a parent stop you
from writing–or from hiking.

You have more material to write about
They say, “Write what you know,” and becoming a mother opens up a whole new world for your writing. Writer Abroad never set out to write about parenting, but becoming a mother has only helped her writing career, landing pieces about mothering in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Brain Child, and others.

You use your time more wisely

Writer Abroad has three days a week to write while her daughter is in preschool. Is she sitting around wasting time on Facebook? Rarely. She appreciates her writing time all the more since it is limited. So she works hard to accomplish as much as she can.

There are more outlets to consider

Becoming a parent opens up many new publications to contribute to. Brain, Child Magazine, New York Times’ Motherlode, Washington Post’s On Parenting, and many more. Often, thanks to the broad parenting topic, these outlets have huge readerships, helping you get the attention your writing deserves.

You develop more patience

This morning Writer Abroad waited for 10 minutes while her daughter watched for birds to possibly take a nibble of birdseed from her homemade bird feeder. The patience Writer Abroad uses with her daughter she also has learned to use with her writing. The fact that some pieces and books take longer to write than others is somehow ok now. And she barely even notices how long it takes an editor to get back to her sometimes. Her daughter keeps her pleasantly distracted.

You see the world through new eyes

Just as moving abroad helped Writer Abroad see the world in new ways, having a child does the same thing in a different way. Who knew stones and sticks were so amazing and had so many uses? Writer Abroad’s daughter reminds her daily how amazing the world can be when you’re seeing bits and pieces of it for the first time.

Do you think parenting makes you a better writer?


Related Posts with Thumbnails