As I reviewed the copy edit of my memoir manuscript—my final chance to make any substantive changes to THE ONLY WAY THROUGH IS OUT—something bothered me about one sentence in Chapter 1, but I didn't know why.
I didn’t even know whether she was literate.
Straightforward, well-intentioned, and no one—not my book coach, my beta readers, my peer reviewers, or my editors—had flagged this particular sentence. If they didn't have a problem with it, maybe I shouldn't either.
I moved on to Chapter 2.
The next day, a post entitled: Words to Avoid—2023 Edition showed up on my social media feed.
And there it was, Word #4: illiterate.
Granted, my sentence contained the word "literate," not "illiterate," but it was close enough to get my attention and read on.
As a writer, I know that words matter—and I also know that I will sometimes get it wrong because language is constantly evolving.
I've learned to avoid...
Subject line: "Title Talk."
The marketing team had concerns about the title of my coming out later in life memoir. They were worried that a book called Graveyard of Safe Choices could potentially sound "like a real bummer." And my book is anything but. It's a hopeful story about finding the courage to leave the graveyard of safe choices, not wallow in it.
I loved my title! I had gone through many other working titles and thought I had finally landed on a winner. After all, it was the title that landed me a book deal.
But the more I sat with the feedback on my title, I realized that the marketing team was right.
Book buyers are heavily influenced by titles and cover art. So it was really important to get my title right and not settle for something that was potentially "a bummer." And the cover designer was waiting on the right-fit title so she could...
Monday morning I sent the final draft of GRAVEYARD OF SAFE CHOICES to my editors at the University of Wisconsin Press!
And ever since, I've been sitting with all the feels.
I'm thrilled. Terrified. Proud of myself for being brave enough to tell my story. Happy I didn't give up when the rejections piled up and it seemed like I would never get clear on what my story was really "about."
The final edits were "interesting" to say the least. As I went through my manuscript ONE LAST TIME (okay, who am I kidding? THREE LAST TIMES), several important insights emerged.
1. Trust your gut
There were sentences, phrases, and even words that bothered me every time I reviewed my draft. Sometimes it was because the text was awkwardly written or the words did not communicate exactly what I wanted to say.
I wondered if the detail was necessary or gratuitous—was this a "darling" I needed to chop or was it important to the story? If I was...
I once heard an editor from one of the Big 5 publishers say: “I’m looking for books that are both completely unique and exactly the same.” And she laughed.
I laughed too.
But now I've come to believe that the intersection of “completely unique” and “exactly the same” IS the key to writing an effective memoir.
Agents, editors, and publishers like to put books in categories, in boxes. That’s how they know whether they can sell them or not, whether there are readers for those books.
Here are some common categories for memoir:
Cancer journeys. Addiction. Abuse. Trauma. Grief (I read a lot of these). Travel memoirs. Food memoirs. Coming of age. Spiritual journeys. Coming out memoirs.
When there isn’t a clear category, it makes your book more difficult to sell.
Your memoir can’t just be...
Insert sad face.
If you’ve read my latest newsletters or you follow me on social media, you know that I had an essay go viral on today.com.
Haven’t read it yet? Here it is!
What a high that was to have that piece published and to hear that it was one of the site's most viewed posts that week.
And then the comments by members of the general public rolled in…
Some were lovely:
“This is a beautiful story. I applaud her!”
“Love the Slinky story!”
Some were in the vein of: “I’m not a lesbian and I drive a Subaru.”
Are there really that many people incapable of understanding irony or taking a joke?
Or as one commenter wrote: “The number of y’all declaring your heterosexuality because of an inside joke in the LGBTQ community is both...
My essay “The Subaru Should Have Been a Sign,” went viral on today.com.
I still can’t freaking believe it.
In case you haven’t read it yet, click on this link.
Barb from Subaru Customer Service reached out to say that her colleagues were in awe of the piece. “It really resonated with us,” Barb said. “Everybody at some point needs to take a big leap and follow their heart.”
My heart took a little leap at that moment, and I may have even gotten a bit choked up. Because isn’t that what we all want as writers? To know that our writing connected with a reader. That we touched someone’s heart. That they felt seen or known or less alone.
And the interesting thing for me—so far—has been that I’ve heard from at least as many straight readers as I have from readers in the queer community.
Because my piece wasn’t about being gay or coming to terms with my sexuality later in life. That was the...
I am so sorry for the delay in responding to you! But I love your essay and I’d be happy to publish this on TODAY.com.
Have you already placed it elsewhere? Please let me know if it’s still available.
"Holy shit!" I screamed at my sister from the passenger seat of the car.
The editor emailed two days later to say that my essay had been one of their top performing pieces all week, with over 250,000 views.
I won't deny it: the 15 minutes of fame have been a blast.
Subaru has reached out—as has a reality TV producer! Don't worry, I'm not planning to be the next Real Housewife, although the new face of Subaru might not be a bad gig.
But more important than the 15 minutes of fame is that I've taken my writing to a new level. I'm more confident. I'm less afraid of putting...
Writers go on a hero’s journey when they make the decision to get their story out of their heads and onto the page.
Queer writers go on a Queero’s Journey!
Just fill out the details below and you'll be good to go. Please note, your information is safe with me, and welcome!