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Lisa is back and talking about time constraints. As a mother, she had limited time to write because of all her other duties and responsibilities. Even if you aren’t a writer, we all face time constraints and it affects how much time we can write.
so let’s talk some author stuff. So you’ve written a couple books. So what are some things that you are doing different now that you’ve learned from when you first started?
Lisa: I think every time you start something new, it should be better. And if it’s not, you should stop. I think every time, like for instance, when I wrote my first novel, it was terrible and I knew it was terrible and I knew it wasn’t gonna do anything with it. I just needed to show that I could write something longer to myself that I could write something longer than a 15 page short story.
I published a lot of short stories back in the day, and I loved that medium, but I was like, can I sustain an ITOR for 200 plus pages? So I set myself a task to do that, and I did it and it was awful, but it was done and it was big or then a short story. And then I threw it away and I was okay with that.
And then I started another book and this one was much, much better. And that got me my first agent. And it also was shortlisted for a big price. Now it didn’t sell, so shit happens. But then I. Worked on another book. And I just think you, you, if you don’t learn about craft and about pace and about beauty and about what works every time you start writing something, you shouldn’t be writing, you should mean that’s fine.
Nobody needs to be a writer. But to think that you are somebody the other day on writing, Twitter said what should I do with my should I edit my book that I just finished? Or should I give it to somebody else? I said, first of all, you need to put it away for a month, just put it away.
And then you need to pick it up in a month and you need to edit yourself and maybe rewrite the whole thing. And then you need to put it away again. And then you need to do that one or two more times, and then you need to pay somebody to edit it. If you’re gonna try and publish yourself. But if not still, maybe get beta readers or something.
To think that people are just going to dash off a book and that’s it. It doesn’t need any editing. It doesn’t need rewriting. It doesn’t need somebody to say what’s going on here. Do you, are you sure you wanna do this? It’s preposterous to me, right? But so you need to see writing as a process.
You need to see it not as like I’m gonna write a bestseller and be famous, but I’m good to write the best book I can and then I’m gonna make it better and then I’m gonna make it better and then I’m gonna make it better. And then it’s gonna be the best book it can. I thought this book was done and it was accepted.
And then when I worked with editor at the press, I thought, damn, wow. The changes were not huge at all, but every question he asked me needed to be answered and it, it became then a very good book, nice, which I needed somebody else to help me with. And as a former editor, I got it. You have to be open to that, but you, if you’re not, then
Stephen: yeah, it working with an editor is definitely a learning process.
And I’ve learned a lot about my writing and better writing doing so, but you have to be open to it. I know some authors that wrote that literally spent like four and a half years writing the first novel and finished it and was done, ready to publish. No, and I was even told by somebody, no, I’m not gonna send it to an editor cuz I don’t think they’d understand what I’m trying to do.
If an editor’s not going to understand, how do you think an audience is going to understand exactly.
Lisa: Exactly. And I, yeah, exactly. And I just there, there are some obvious examples of some very famous edit or writers who are no longer edited and you can tell but. Mostly you need one and you need somebody to just read it like a reader and say, I don’t know if I get what you’re doing here, or I think I need a little more juice, or I think you’ve already said this, or now you’ve said it twice.
And I think you only need to say it once. And never mind copy editing that happens later, which is also extremely important, not just for typos and mistakes, but for grammar, weirdnesses that you might have done or for misplaced modifiers or all sorts of things that, that as a writer, you really don’t want in your book.
You want it to be as perfect as possible. So yeah, you have to be absolutely amenable to a critical eye because not everybody, even if it’s published, not everybody’s gonna like it. Publishers weekly, didn’t have very nice things to say about this book, which devastated me. They said it was, let’s see half cooked which I was just devastated by.
But every other review has been fabulous. So I just, I can’t let that get to me, which you need to realize that every every novel is subjective. Even the can people are so arguable, should Fitzgerald, Hemingway be in the cannon and da. So if you can’t convince an editor of what you’re doing exactly how do you reach anybody else?
Stephen: Don’t right. And there’s a truth right there for anyone, no matter what you’re writing, you gotta write for the right audience. You didn’t get a as favorable publisher’s journal review as you would’ve liked, but. There’s multiple people that do those reviews. So your book may just be the wrong book for that person.
That’s the unfortunate thing about those
Lisa: reviews. It is. And I think it probably was, and I there’s nothing to do about it. Because that reaction has been a one off. Yeah. So it’s okay.
Stephen: And they may have been having a bad day or they may have just read something that just put ’em in a bad mood and moved on to your book.
And it There’s so many things, but yeah I talk, I write middle grade fiction and you may say Harper Lee is an amazing writer and everybody should read her book and it’s a great book, but you go talk to most fifth graders. They like, oh my God, that book sucks so bad.
so which one is it? It’s your point of view, I guess I I think Harper and I think te Berg is way overrated. It’s been living on this lofty cloud for a very long time. It was a nice book, but whoa, when people say it’s their favorite book they ever read, I’m just like, I don’t think so.
Lisa: More things, it’s a good book, which she’s become this lion S for this one book, essentially. And oh, did, she’s no longer with this, but God, what I think about it’s
Stephen: becoming more dated, unfortunately, with some of the way the world has. Moved on as Steven King would say . Yeah. I mean it, David is okay if it’s still profound, but in this sense I I guess people like the way the whole way that he came to the ATCU Finch came the defense of black people, but there’s a lot of other stuff being written about.
Lisa: And by minorities that is spectacular.
Stephen: That’s one of the points can teach you so much more. Yeah. One of my new favorite authors is Jeff strand. He writes kind of comedy horror, and I just really love the stuff. It’s not for everybody. And a lot of people don’t like it, but he has written a couple middle grade books and he’s gotten comments from teachers saying, oh, thank God.
He’s I cannot get kids to read books. And my thought is, that’s cuz you’re giving ’em books that they don’t care about and they don’t wanna. Yeah, but they pick up these middle grade books by him and they’re funny, they get engaged and they’re like, give us more. And the teachers are like, we love your books because they get the kids to read.
And that’s one of my things is I think sometimes we push things like to kill a Mockingbird on kids before they want to read it or they can enjoy it for what it is. Absolutely. We’re just gonna force this on you. And it’s no, we’re wonder they don’t wanna read. Cause it’s a bad experience. And I’m not again, not saying it’s a bad book.
No, no fluid for certain people at certain times necessarily.
Lisa: Yeah, no. My, when I was my daughter was younger in, in middle school and early high school, she loved Ellen Hopkins. I don’t know if you know who she is. She’s very famous. Ye okay. And her books are almost always written in poetry and they’re fat, fat, and she was addicted to them.
And I. Since I don’t get it, but this woman’s very famous and very successful and you love them. That’s great. She’s now on the band books list, Ellen, which is fascinating. And I’m like, okay, I get that. Because her books are tough, but they’re important. And then my daughter goes in my bookshelf and she pulls down the great Gaby and she pulls down as I lie dying and she pulls down all these classics and she starts reading those and I never had a worry that she would stop.
But, and Hopkins wasn’t who I wanted to read, but I got, I understood why she was speaking to grace. And and that made sense to him. My, my son is addicted to Harry Potter books and he would, he was a very fast reader and he would read Read them in hours, he would do a marathon.
It was crazy. So we were, I guess he was a teenager. Most of ’em had either come out or he’d finished them. And we were on a trip and I was reading American gods by Neil Gayman, which is loves that book. Oh man. One of the best novels ever written brilliant. I’ve read it three times, which I never do.
And I finished the book and I turned around to my son and I handed it to him and I said, read this and he’s and because he trusts me and we have a good relat, he said, okay. And he was blown away, but I just knew that it would have an impact on him too, but because both of my kids grew up reading, seeing their father and I read reading was never.
Onerous. It was joyful. Yeah. And I didn’t care what they read. I didn’t tell them they couldn’t read the I they couldn’t see our rated movies, but I didn’t care what they read. That didn’t bother me books, cuz I read completely inappropriate stuff. Very young . But yeah, that got him. He was nice.
He is a huge, no gamut fan and has been but yeah I think you need to meet people where they’re at and then they’ll get farther along.
Stephen: I, I think some of the books on the list for the kids are only there because that’s what has always been there. It worked for parents and grandparents and I’m not again, not saying they’re bad books, just not maybe the right books are appropriate books for the kids in 2022 or that they’re better books than others.
I think so of the times those lists should be reevaluated.
Lisa: Oh yeah, no I do too. I’m always curious about the hundred books you should have read. I’m like. Okay. Really? Why tell me why I should have read this particular book because it’s old. We all have there’s a, an author named David lodge, who I think is now deceased, but I was living in England and I read all his books and he’s very clever and funny.
He reads about academia in a very satirical way at, I can’t remember the name of the game, but he writes about a game where all these English professors go to parties and they try to beat out the other people with a famous book that they’ve never read and like Uliss and Don Quixote. And it’s so fabulous.
It’s just great. You hear these people who live in words and write and do all this stuff, and they have this parlor game, they play at dinner parties, which is, I haven’t read something that everyone says they’ve read and that, and sometimes I’ve been making up that. I read this for years, so that’s fun, I think.
And Anyway, my book is your listy. I’ve never read your listy. And I’ve read the
Stephen: graphic novel, what I’ve read the graphic novel that, that somebody did. So
Lisa: I three times and then gave up.
Stephen: Yeah. All right. Lisa, when you write what software and services do you like and do you use
Lisa: I’m very old fashioned.
I use word. Okay. I used it from the beginning. It is unwieldy and often infuriating, but I figured out things like, so when I first started, everything went in one file. Now I each chapter, each revisions, a different file and stuff. So I’ve learned ways to work with them, but I’m very simple. I work on a PC usually a desktop.
I have a laptop. What I’m talking to you on? I don’t worry about. Anything, except the words, when I start, I just start writing and I don’t even know if that’s gonna be the beginning or it’s gonna be the middle or the end. And when I cut things, I save them and maybe I’ll use them again, or maybe I’ll use them for something else.
Use them somewhere else. Yeah. Yes, exactly. I also, I’m very old fashioned and that when I finish, what I think is a book, I print it out or an essay. I always print it because that’s where I got my start was reading and editing manuscripts that I typed or somebody else type. Nice. So I can see things better that way.
So I wait I use up some paper, but I really think I need to see what it looks like on the page because that’s how it’s gonna present itself. So I do that, but other than I’m pretty old school, I just write, save print, and keep on going nothing fancy.
Stephen: Okay. So besides doing podcasts and going to the Montana book festival, what else are you doing to market your book and get it out there?
Lisa: I’ve hired a publicist to help me, but I don’t, I’m not, I don’t know and I don’t, I have my website, which is a really good platform if it would drive people too, if I could drive people to it, it’s it says everything about me that’s necessary. It links to a lot of my writing. It’s ways to buy about the books that I’ve been in.
I’ve been in a lot of anthology fiction and nonfiction. So my work’s out there. I don’t probably not enough, but I had some illness for a while and I lost, as I said, the publicist at the press left. And so I lost my momentum what can you do? It’s, there’s always this buzz at the beginning.
It’s like a new relationship, right? At first kiss, the first time you had sex, it’s whoa. And then things are less exotic perhaps, but never thought of it like that, but I think that’s true, but anyway, so that’s the way it is know, your book they send you boxes and your book arrives and you open them up.
And the first time you do a reading and you first time you sign a book or sell a book, it’s all very heady, but it’s not something that sustains itself unless you are a bestselling author. And that, then it just says about itself. You don’t have to do anything really we have to work a lot harder.
Stephen: Okay. We’ve been talking a lot, but that wasn’t actually our topic of choice. We were going to talk about managing your time, especially at, with having a family and getting books and stuff written. So you’ve got a couple kids you said, pardon me? They’re grown. Yes. Yeah. Grown. So what have you done?
What did you do when you were having to raise kids and your mother and married husband and all the things that go with that and writing books, how do you schedule all that manage your time?
Lisa: When I’ve first started writing books and having babies, my parents were not sick, so that was okay.
That wasn’t until later when my daughter was a little bit older and my son too, but when my children were babies, I just I decided that they’re five year and a half years apart. So I, they were each like an only child in a sense, but I just had to be incredibly disciplined when they, after the first couple of months where you nap when they nap and you get things done.
I decided I was gonna use that time to work. And I did. and it was not easy, but if I had an hour or two and when they started going to play school for whatever time I would work, then I would work after my husband got home and could look at after the kids. I went to my first writing colony or artist colony when my son was 18 months old, which was hard.
I had never left him, but my mother-in-law came and stayed and helped my then husband take care of him, but I went for two weeks and I, it was the first time I’d been seen as a writer by a bunch of other people who were writers and painters and musicians and composers. My only identity was there was my work there and that’s when things started to really.
Take off. And so I did so much work during that two weeks that I could then edit it and rework it. And I had a momentum going and I really think that changed my life. It was the Virginia center for the creative arts, which is still a very fantastic calling. I’ve been many times, but that chunk of time, two weeks, I didn’t have to take care of family cook, clean shop, anything was profound.
And so I tried to recreate as much of those moments as I could, which is hard. But every time I went, there was a, I got a jump start on a project or several projects. And I used to say, you could do six months worth of writing in a week or two at some place like that because you had nothing else in your head.
Everything was, I didn’t even want myself to think about my kids until nighttime when I would call home and. This was back before the days of the internet and cell phones. And so you really had no way of being in touch with people. So you were now you have to enforce it when you go to these places and not take your phone and turn off.
Social media and the internet and stuff. But I think it’s hard, really hard for women to find the time to work on their writing or art or whatever it is they do, especially if they’re raising kids and, or also have a day job. So the only thing I can tell you was that you have such how much do you want it?
How much do you want
Stephen: this there? Yes. Agreed. And not arguing it, but it’s not just women. Cuz I was a single dad for a large part of my kids growing up. Yeah. Again, and I had luckily had support from my mother. So their grandparents. And having a job and the kids, so yeah. It’s how bad do you want it?
And you, I always hear people like I just don’t have the time, like really, because I had a job and I had two kids and I was writing. So it’s how bad do you want? It is what it really comes down to. I
Lisa: remember when I had or maybe I was pregnant with my daughter who’s my second child and a woman was at my house for dinner.
She was not invited the back. She looked at and she goes, oh when you have your second baby, your house, won’t be this clean. And I looked at her and I said, why? And she said, she looked at me and I said, I like a clean house. It’s important to me. I’ll clean my ass. I’ll read a newspaper.
He’ll probably say, oh, how do you have time to read the news every morning? I take the time. You take time for what’s important to you. People would also say, oh, you read, when do you read? Sometimes I read 11 o’clock at night after my husband’s asleep and the kids have been in bed for a while.
I read for an hour because that’s my quiet time. I will read that because reading is really important to me. So yes, of course there’s people who have very few resources and it’s very difficult, but there are so many writers out there writing through unspeakable trials. Yeah. Buying so hard writing in war zones, writing in abuse, situations in poverty that it’s how bad do you really want this?
And even what if you found half an hour a day and you wrote 500 words, it would add up. It
Stephen: adds up. I think a large and this is my observation opinion is we sometimes get distracted by the unimportant things and that, but sometimes it’s a mindset also. So yeah we get distracted by what’s everyone doing on Facebook?
What are these 10 cool videos that lead to 10 more and all that. But it’s also the mindset that I’ve had a rough day in dealing with the work and the kids and the husband and the dog and whatever else becomes difficult. I’m relaxing and finding some enjoyment, watching these videos, and that’s where the alert comes in, whereas, oh, writing’s going to be work and a job.
So you avoid it. Whereas I enjoyed my writing. It helped me relax. And I was able to change my mindset that it’s I’m not enjoying these videos as much as I would enjoy writing right now. And I think that helped me a lot. Find it. Yeah. If you see it as a desire, not a chore you need to see what you’re doing as something you wanna be doing.
Lisa: If you don’t wanna be doing don’t do it. You don’t wanna doing it. I Nobody needs your book unless you need your book. If you, and if you want a glass of wine at night and not, and to watch some good television and you don’t wanna write that night and do that, don’t beat yourself up, but it’s kinda being on a diet.
So say you have a chocolate bar. That’s not the end of the world. It’s the end of that diet that day, or that’s the end of your being good nutritionally. But it doesn’t mean you can’t start and not have a chocolate bar the next day, right? You each day is a new day and some days. You go great guns and everything works and happy things happen.
And it’s also hard to write. I think for every writer I know right now, or the past five years, because of politics because of catastrophes and apocalypses and climate change in war and the overthrow of the government and everything you can think of it’s at people felt the same thing after nine 11, they felt paralyzed.
Yeah. Because they’re like, what can I contribute after this horror? But you have to separate yourself out and say, my contribution is not to this it’s different. It’s smaller, it’s specific. And some people are doing great. Like Emily St. John Mande. She is a great apocalyptic writer. She’s amazing.
And she’s been she wrote station 11, Before the pandemic and it was ed also a great television show by the way. but not everybody has to be writing apocalyptic fiction just because we’re in an apocalypse, you don’t have to. So you just have to decide what’s more important and don’t let yourself get derailed, cuz it is easy to get drilled.
It’s get you, you get drilled by having a baby by getting married, by losing a spouse by getting divorced, by losing income. A million by being ill, a million different things that we look at Laura Hilderbrand who wrote a seed biscuit. I mean she’s chronic fatigue. She’s been in bed for years, 30 years.
Wow. And she’s written a astonishing books. So on all kinds of prizes. When I think about that, I think why should I complain? I This woman’s writing through fear, pain, exhaustion and doing beautiful work. So there’s just all kinds of ways to do it.
Stephen: What do, so do you think as a woman, mother and we were bringing up this topic, do you think women are discouraged from doing something like writing, doing something for themselves and bringing these things out?
Because they’re supposed to be a mother they’re supposed to take care
Lisa: of the kids, not if that’s so true anymore. I think it was true, which is why Virginia Wolf for what she did an independent income and a room of one’s own. I do think it’s important. If you can carve out a space in your house may not be a room, but someplace where you can go and and work.
Or maybe it’s just a time when the house is empty and quiet, but I think it is hard. I think, especially her, for single women who have no support, emotional support or physical support to write and work and raise kids. I. Wanted children very badly. I made a conscious effort and desire to have them.
I wanted to raise them myself. Not that I had the means for a nanny, but I really wanted to be able to raise them. So I accepted that we’d live off one paycheck for a while. And and I think raising children com informed my work for the better, in a billion ways. And I still think my children are the best things I’ve ever done.
I They’re amazing people. So I can’t imagine myself as a, I think if I hadn’t had children, I wouldn’t be a very good writer, but that’s me both having to get out of your and take care of somebody else before you, and also having for me in this case to budget your time in an increments, because you had duties as a mother at a wife, Helped me be disciplined, but also I think just helped my work.
It became more compassionate, more interesting. So I think it’s hard. Yes. But I think, right now with what’s happened with Roe it’s oh, it’s way complicated. So yeah, it might discourage women who would’ve had more freedom and can’t have it because they can’t have control over their bodies, but we gotta get that back.
So as long as women can help author their fate, I think they’re okay. But if it becomes completely taken from them, then I don’t know.
Stephen: Yeah. I’m a guy, so I can’t say no women have all the same. My experience. I see that’s what’s available, but I don’t know if everybody. Supports it and recognizes it.
I think there’s probably plenty of women that still think, oh, I could never do that because people will think I’m a bad mother or something. I think that thinking is starting to go away a bit.
Lisa: And right. Maybe there’s a lot of women who voted for Donald Trump too, so
Stephen: There’s a whole nother discussion so
Lisa: I think you can defeat your own
Stephen: self man or woman though.
I think you need some support, just like you need support taking care of kids. You need support. If you’re going to do writing, you need a neighbor, a mother a husband, wife you need that acknowledgement that yes. You can do this and you should get some time to do this.
Lisa: You do, but if you don’t get it, you need to take it.
My very first journalism job. I was, it was cubicles. I was at Boston magazine and I said to my. Boss a woman. I said, so what time do I get lunch? And she said, you don’t get lunch. You take it. And I thought, whoa. So that was like, that was a huge light bulb moment for me. Yeah. Okay. I get it. My husband at the time, he’s an owner.
My husband was marginally supportive, but mostly because I kept everything else up the dinners the entertaining, the house the children’s activities, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Okay. You wanna write fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with all this other stuff. And my parents were not very supported cuz they wanted me to make money, but children of the depression, all that.
But for me, going off to a colony was really important. But also I have, I had in at the beginning writers, groups, people where I would sit and talk to my work that would read my work and vice versa. But you really nobody’s gonna hand it to you. They’re not right. Nobody says, oh honey, you go do this.
No, I don’t care what your sexual orientation is. Nothing. No, it’s not gonna happen. If you really want some time, you’re gonna just have to grab it. And it has to be grabbed out of wherever. You can find it. If it means box Mac and cheese for dinner that night, that’s what it means. It’s you, but you have to take it and you also have to be okay with taking it.
Stephen: can’t be stuff. Those are the stories we always hear about we don’t hear about I was a mother, but my husband took the kids at night and my mother watched them during the day and I had hours and all the, and we had nannies coming in. You don’t hear those stories as being inspirational.
It’s the, I was a single, struggling mother with three kids and I would get up early, I’d stay up late. I would write while I’m stirring the Mac and cheese and stuff. Those are the stories we hear about. So take some comfort in that, that it, like you said, take the time it’s yours and push through it if that’s what you really want, because those are the inspirational stories that people want to hear.
Lisa: Yeah. Easy is not interesting. Is it true? There you
Stephen: go. All right. Lisa, this has been a really great discussion. On several topics, it seems. But before we go, do you have any last minute advice that you would give to new authors that are listening?
Lisa: Don’t give up. I wrote my first novel, 30 years ago, don’t give up this one, took me a dozen years off and on certainly not full time.
But I put it away, went back as my mother grew more and more ill. I added things in and pulled other things out. And then the novel ends with the death. So I always tell people when I read here’s a spoiler alert, one of the main characters is already dead. But yeah, just I could have and during the lockdown I really wasn’t doing a lot of, we didn’t really have a lockdown, but during the time when I was at home a lot for months and months because I have issues that I worried would be terrible if I got sick, I still do.
But I was having a hard time doing new stuff because it was a, it was such a scary thing I didn’t. And it’s always how I imagine the world ending, not with a bang, but a whimper. It’s like couple of dead here. Couple of, not like captain trips and Stephen King, but right. Slowly.
So it was profoundly anxiety inducing. And I said, I’m not gonna do any new work right now. I said, I’m gonna go revisit this book and see what I wanna do with this. I think two years before that, I, it had been a long list of very prestigious contest and I thought, okay, so I know this is gonna go. So I went back through it again yet again, and then I started sending it out to the, getting ready, getting to send it out to the small presses.
a year from when I was accepted, it appeared not with, of course she wanted hard work, but so that was my kind of quarantine baby. I just said I’m gonna use what I do have, and I’m gonna see if I can get that out there. And. As I said, it’s the book I needed to write. I wanted to write. It’s perfect.
To me, it’s exactly what I wanted to do, but I could have just said, AF it’s not gonna happen. You can get I got agents saying yes, send me more. No, yes, blah, blah, blah. This went on for a couple of years back and forth. One agent said cut, 10,000 words. And I said, you’ve gotta be out of your mind.
This was about five years ago and I put it away and then I picked it up again and I said, Ooh, he’s right. I do need to cut 10,000 words. So that made it a better book. So now I can do something new or not, but yeah, it’s just, don’t give up. If you believe in your stuff, don’t give up. If you, if it’s causing you S and depression, then do give it up.
But if you still care about your work and you still care about other people reading it and you still care about what you have to say or what you think you have to say, then. Keep going. Who says you have to be a novelist in your twenties or a published almost in your thirties or forties? There’s a lot of people publishing, the first novels after 50 now, and it’s become poets. Writers does a whole issue on it every year. It’s not even odd anymore. So keep going. It’s your life, figure it out
Stephen: how you want. Great. All right. Lisa, thank you very much for being on and talking to us today. I appreci luck on your book.
Lisa: appreciate the time to talk about this. Thank you. And a good question. Thank