Meredith’s Top 10 Reasons for Writing Books

1.       So that a “Meredith Schorr” search on Google will disclose more results, and my membership in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan Meetup group will get pushed towards the end.

 2.       To ‘out’ an ex-boyfriend’s dirty secrets via a character inspired by him.  (even if he’ll never read the book or admit his dirty little secrets).

 3.       To obtain closure and give my heroine the happy ending I didn’t get (even if that particular happy ending is not what I even want any more).

 4.       To live vicariously through my heroine as she sleeps around. 

 5.       To cast the movie that will undoubtedly be inspired by the book.

 6.       To find out who my real friends are.  You know, the ones who buy the book the day it comes out and actually read it.

 7.       To discover all the edits I want to make after the book is already published.

 8.       To experience an overwhelming feeling of pride when I hold my book in my arms for the first time and realize, “Holy crap, I wrote a fucking book.  And it’s published.” (Followed by the realization, “Holy shit, people are going to read it!!!!!”)

 9.       To make lots of money – hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!

 10.   Because I’d sooner give up ice cream than writing.  And I’m not even lactose intolerant.

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multitasking

Since I’m going to be posting blogs regularly, I thought there were some things you should know about me.

Although writing is my passion, it’s not what pays my bills (yet).  I have fifteen years experience working as a trademark paralegal.  In a nutshell, I assist in the clearance, prosecution, maintenance and protection of trademarks.  The work is interesting, my colleagues are great, especially my boss, and I get along well with my clients.

I’m physically and emotionally addicted to exercise.  I don’t mean I need to run marathons or do triathlons, but I need regular cardio-vascular activity to feel good about myself.  If I skip more than one day in a row, I am noticeably stressed out and I feel out of sorts, not to mention, fat.  I know skipping days here and there won’t make me fat but I worry that “days here and there” will turn into weeks which will turn into months until I lose all desire/work-ethic for exercise. As a result, I try to go to the gym six days a week, always in the mornings except for Saturdays when I need to sleep late.  Which leads to another fun fact about me – I require a lot of sleep.

When I was a baby, my mother never had trouble putting me down to a take a nap.  In fact, she told me she had more trouble waking me up!  I’ve always loved to sleep and I require a lot of it to function well.  Between going to the gym in the mornings, working full days of work and often having plans at night, I’m exhausted by the weekend.  Even though I usually go out on Friday nights, I always look forward to sleeping in on Saturdays to recover from the work week.  I, obviously, make exceptions but my friends know that I am very slow moving on Saturdays and try to avoid plans that require me to be showered and ready to go earlier than dinner time.  Which smoothly segues into another aspect of my life – my social life.

I love my friends and I have many of them.  I like going out to restaurants, bars, movies etc. and just spending time with my friends in general.  I’m dating someone and I like spending time with him too.  I organize a book-club that meets once a month.  I am a loyal fan of the New Year Yankees and from April to (if all goes well) October and early November, I am all about watching baseball. (Pitchers and catchers report on 2/14!!!) I love television, most notably Criminal Minds, Parenthood and How I Met Your Mother. But, despite being social, I also require downtime.  And I don’t mean downtime as in chilling with friends watching television.  Downtime, by my definition, is being alone and not expending significant energy on anything.  That could mean watching television, reading or stalking people on Facebook.  But it cannot be strenuous or too intellectually stimulating and it cannot involve another person.

What I am getting at in a very long, round-about way is that, like most people, I have a lot going on and it is a challenge to find the time to write.  Besides the above, there are things that just need to get done, like making sure I have food and toiletries in my apartment, doing laundry, paying my bills, keeping up with doctor’s appointments, cleaning my apartment etc.   And all of these things need to get done when I’m not working, writing, sleeping, exercising, eating or drinking.  I am in no way suggesting that my life is busier than everyone else’s.  I’m not the only person with a job, outside interests, friends and responsibilities.  And I can’t even imagine throwing children into the mix right now.  But even living alone, it’s not easy balancing work, exercise, sleep, leisure, downtime and general errands with writing a book!  But since none of the aforementioned aspects of my life are what I consider optional, I don’t have a choice.

I don’t like to live my life like clockwork and so I try to maintain an open-mind and allow for some spontaneity, but I also have routines I need to follow.   For example, going to the gym before work helps me tons, simply because it’s not competing with anything else besides sleeping.  And while I sometimes (read: often) cry when my alarm goes off, it’s not like I’d be able to sleep much longer even if I didn’t go to the gym since I work regular hours.  And going to the gym early keeps my evenings open for other things.  Things that include, for me, working late if necessary, socializing, running errands, writing or doing nothing.  If I’m not careful, this can lead to five nights of socializing which results in no writing, downtime or time to stop by Duane Reade for toilet paper and conditioner.  Or if I’m feeling lazy, it could lead to curling up on my couch watching television every night at the expense of writing and my social life.  But I do a pretty decent job of living outside of the extremes.  For instance, I almost never schedule social plans for every night in a given work week.  At least one night a week, I schedule a date with myself.  And since I currently have a weekly Wednesday writer’s group, this ensures that I will spend at least one evening a week working on my book.  I’m also pretty good at multitasking.  For example, when riding or waiting for the subway on my way to watch football with my friends on Sunday, I’ll  write my book.  I also try to write during the inevitable wait at the doctor’s office, cafeteria line, or ATM machine.  I’ve actually written the majority of my second novel this way.

For those of you who ask when my next book will be finished (and I’m glad some of you want to know), the answer is “not as soon as I’d like”!  Without creative scheduling and multitasking, I’d never have been able to complete one, much less almost two novels.  I suppose if I liked pulling all-nighters or getting up before dawn to write, it would be a quicker process.  And I’d probably be further in the process if, in favor of writing, I let my friendships/romantic endeavors suffer, gave up exercising, stopped bathing and general hygiene maintenance, quit my day job and stopped paying my bills.  The last two would probably go hand in hand and if I stopped bathing, I’d probably lose my job and my friends anyway.  Thanks to multitasking and routines, however, no one has to suffer with a jobless, homeless, smelly, fat Meredith. You just have to wait a bit longer for Book No. 2. 🙂

I simply remember my favorite books and then I don’t feel so bad

It’s been said that in order to be a good writer, you should be a good reader but that is not why I started reading.  I started reading because my oldest sister offered to pay me .25 cents for every book I read.  (This was in the late 70s when .25 cents was actually worth something.)  Before she paid me, I had to prove I read the book by writing a brief paragraph about it. Clever me used to paraphrase the back cover, but eventually my sister figured it out and would ask me specific questions about the book I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t really read it.  I was probably not pleased at the time, but eventually, I discovered the wonders of reading and the power of escape it afforded and I never looked back.  I’ve been an avid reader ever since.    It’s been probably 30 years since my sister began this exercise and although I no longer get paid, I’ve since read a countless number of books. I’ve read good books, bad books, great books, terrible books, lousy books that I loved anyway and classics I couldn’t bring myself to finish.  I obviously cannot remember all of them but these are some of the books that hold a special place in my heart.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – this book came out long before the paranormal frenzy and it was the first time I’d ever read a book written from the perspective of someone who had died.  The novel was haunting, beautiful and sad and it touched me in a way I recall each and every time I see the light blue cover in a book store.

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum – this novel came as a recommendation by my mother.  She was so enthusiastic about it that I suggested it to my book club.  I found myself deeply relating to the protagonist, her fears and insecurities – and was motivated to take a good look at myself and make some much needed changes.  I am forever grateful for this book.

Watermelon by Marian Keyes – I believe this book was my foray into the “chick-lit” genre. Before this book, I read mostly deeper women’s fiction from authors such as Jodi Picoult and Wally Lamb or  psychological thrillers and contemporary fiction from authors like Dean Koontz and Tom Wolfe.  I had no idea that books about women could be so funny and relatable to a twenty-something like myself.  Since then, chick-lit has been my “go-to” genre for pure escapism and fun.  I organize a chick-lit book club for other lovers of the genre like myself and my own novel, Just Friends With Benefits, is written in humorous and conversational voice and most often categorized as “chick-lit”.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles – Of all of the classics I had to read for Junior High and High School, A Separate Peace was my favorite.  Maybe it was because it was about boys in prep school and maybe because the movie starred that actor from the Hardy Boys, but I really loved this book back then.  As an adult reading the book by choice, I was better able to appreciate the themes of friendship, trust, competition, jealousy etc. and I still loved it.

All of the Ginny and Geneva books by Catherine Wooley  – these were the books of my childhood, before I entered my pre-teen years and devoured every novel by Judy Blume (more to follow).  If I recall, my favorites were Ginny and the New Girl and A Room For Cathy.  I loved reading about girls my age and their adventures in friendship.  Sometimes I am tempted to spend the day in the library, reading these books all over again and perhaps getting a little bit of that innocence back, if only for the afternoon.

Everything ever written by Judy Blume – I am forever beholden to Judy Blume for writing books that reassured me I wasn’t much different than other tweens/pre-teens.  Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret, showed me I probably wasn’t the only girl to lie about when she got her period; Blubber was evidence that it is not easy to stand up for yourself or others when you are afraid of being the next victim of the mean girl in school; and while I did not relate in any way to Sally J. Freedman, I think I read Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself more than any other books as evidenced by the worn cover and ripped pages.  There was something so exciting about reading about Sally’s time in Florida, her crush on Peter Hornstein (the Latin Lover) and her fascination with a man she thinks is Hitler in disguise.   I had never heard of a “nocturnal emission” before reading Then Again Maybe I won’t.  And, of course, Forever – the first book I read with sex scenes.  ‘Nuff said.

The Promise by Danielle Steele – I’m not typically a fan of Danielle Steele because she uses about six pages to describe a wooden table and, to me, “wooden table” is a good enough description.  That being said, I loved The Promise.  I loved the story about a couple tragically torn apart by a car accident that leaves the man thinking his lover died when the truth is that his wealthy mother paid a surgeon to reconstruct the woman from the wrong-side-of-the-track’s horribly damaged face in exchange for her agreement to let him believe she died.   When the man and woman reconnected and he somehow knew it was her despite her completely different face, well, it was magic.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb –I was  half-way through reading the book before I looked at the cover, saw that the author’s name was “Wally” and asked my sister to confirm that “Wally” was, in fact, a female.  When she said “Uh, no, Wally Lamb is a man,” I was astounded.  I met Wally Lamb at a writer’s conference once and was so excited for the question/answer session so I could ask him how he could so believably write from a woman’s perspective but someone else beat me to it.  And whenever I discuss the book with other women, the sentiment is echoed.  It has been more than ten years since I read this book but, still, whenever it’s mentioned in conversation, my first thought is “Damn, I can’t believe that book was written by a man!”

And finally,

A Shore Thing by Snookie.  Just joking.   I just wanted to make sure you were really reading!!

So, what do you think of my list?  Agree?  Disagree?  I’d love to hear about the books on your list!

The Hardest Part – The Final Chapter – Promotion

So you’ve written a book and found someone who wants to publish it.  Now what?  You sell three billion copies in the first week and the book gets made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, right?

Oh yeah, that’s Pretty Woman and in real life, hookers don’t wind up with the big-hearted but misunderstood wealthy and handsome business man and go from walking the streets to shopping on Rodeo Drive.  And in real life, most authors do not hit the big time immediately and, in fact, most never do.

I didn’t write a book to get rich and famous, but I do want people to buy it.  (And, course, I’ve cast the movie just in case.) While I didn’t self-publish Just Friends With Benefits, I’m responsible for most of the promotion, not my publisher.  These days, unless you are a big name author, you are responsible for much of the promotion of your book.  It’s a lot easier these days thanks to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but it’s still extremely difficult to get the word out, especially for writers like me whose books are e-published.  Just Friends With Benefits can only be purchased online and since it is not available in brick and mortar stores, I am at a disadvantage in that shoppers cannot peruse the book shelves, see my pretty pink cover and decide to buy my book on impulse. And the cover really is quite pretty!  I’m quite certain many “girly-girls” would buy the book based on the cover alone.  (And most guys might buy it based on just the title!)

Although this is certainly not a “how-to” guide since I’m a complete newbie in this business, these are some actions I have taken to promote my book:

Before my book was released, I created a “fan” page on Facebook.  I asked my friends and family to “like” the page and to suggest it to their friends.  Most did.  Some didn’t.  And other friends still haven’t liked the page at all.  (I guess they’re not very good friends.)  I get very excited when the number of fans on my page increases and I see names of people I have never met.  I mean, my sisters have to like my page but Joe Schmoe did it of his own accord and that makes me feel awesome.  Thanks Joe Schmoe!!  While “liking” my page is not equivalent to buying the book, I’ve been told by friends that their friends have, in fact, bought and really enjoyed the book.  A few of these people posted as much on my wall, which made my day.  And some have told their friends about it too.  It’s like that Faberge Organics shampoo commercial from the 80s, “and she told two friends, and she told two friends and so on and so on and so on.” Ok, I might be showing my age here, but word of mouth is so important.

I bought the domain name, www.meredithschorr.com and had a website created to post excerpts to the book, links to purchase the book, information about me and blogs like the one you are reading.  This is to increase my presence on the web. I include the website on all correspondence I send so that people know where to find me.  And when an old boyfriend  searches for me on Google, he’ll learn that I wrote a book, look at his fat, ugly wife and curse the day we broke up.  Um, what I mean is that old friends who have no idea what I’ve been up to might come across my website and decide to purchase my book.  A sale is a sale, even it’s from my high school enemy or douche-bag ex boyfriend, right?

I created author pages on Amazon and Goodreads and post my blog on both.  Since I’m also an avid reader, I post my own reviews of other books on both of these sites.  On Goodreads, I can see how many people have read my book which is both a good and bad thing.  It’s good because I get excited when another person has added my book to her shelf.  It’s bad because I am tempted to check my profile every ten minutes to see if the number has gone up.  Usually it hasn’t 😦

I have sent my book to be reviewed by people with websites dedicated to the chick-lit genre.  If these people like my book, I hope they will promote it on their blog and that readers in my target audience will, hopefully, want to read it as well.  These requests only went out recently but fingers and toes are cross. I’d cross my eyes too, but was told by my Hebrew school teacher they might stay that way.  Or maybe that was only if someone hit me in the back of my head while I was cross-eyed.  I don’t really remember but I am erring on the side of caution and only crossing my fingers and toes.

I have asked other authors in related genres to read the book and provide blurbs in the hope that fans of these authors will rely on their opinions and pick up their own copies of Just Friends With Benefits.  I have received positive feedback from some of these authors and I am still awaiting comments from others. I appreciate that people are busy and certainly do not expect anyone to stop her life to read my book, but I am most appreciative of the people who have.  Thank you!

A very good friend of mine designed promotional bookmarks specific to Just Friends With Benefits and I have asked my friends to pass them along to anyone they know who might enjoy a light, fun read.  I also give out bookmarks every month at the chick-lit book club I organize and I’ve left bookmarks at the gym, the library and various stores.

I’ve told just about everyone I know about my book, including my college, my writer’s workshop, current and past colleagues and peers from Romance Writers of America and Chick Lit Writers of the World and, as a result, the publication of my book will be featured in my college alumni magazine and my current employer’s newsletter and I have been asked to guest blog on related author sites.

These are just some of the things I have done to promote my book but there are many others and I’m sure I will continue to find new ways.   One thing I have not done is have a book signing.  If I lived in a small town, I would certainly approach my local book store but living in the Big Apple, my neighborhood book store is Borders and I’m pretty certain they would not be interested in a small-time author like myself.  Maybe with book #2!

In conclusion, I’d like to confess that self-promotion is not something I enjoy.  In fact, I quite dislike it.  But I will get used to it and hopefully get better at it with time.  I hate asking people, even friends, to do me favors like posting honest reviews,  giving out my bookmarks, telling their friends about my book or even just reading it.  I appreciate all of you who have helped and continue to help “pimp” my book (shout-outs to Ronni, Abbe, Alissa, Douglas, Erica, Mary Jean, Megan, Nabetsi and Rachel.  And, of course, my mother.  I can’t forget my mom who has told all of her friends at the JCC! XOXO)  If I’ve left out your name, I apologize.  Unless, of course, you have done nothing to pimp my book in which case, get moving!!! (I’m getting better at this already…)

New Years Resolutions

I’ve never been a fan of the New Years Resolution.  Through the years, I’ve silently laughed at all the new people who suddenly crowded the gym on January 2nd. And I counted the days until February 1st when I would stop seeing those people and could finally stop bitching about the line for the treadmill at 6:30 in the morning.  And the people who resolve to eat healthy?  Sure, they’ll stock their refrigerators with lettuce and tomatoes on January 2nd, but most will be eating chips and buffalo chicken wings long before the Super Bowl. 

I don’t make resolutions at the start of a new year because I hate to fail.  I’m incredibly hard on myself and if I start something I can’t finish, it makes me feel ‘less than.’   And so, I won’t resolve to channel my mother and thoroughly clean my apartment every Saturday morning, because that particular obsessive/compulsive gene was not passed down to me.  And I won’t vow to become a good cook because the truth is, I don’t really enjoy cooking and much prefer dining out or having others cook for me.   

The fact of the matter is that I will not become a neat freak and master chef at the mere drop of the ball in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  So I won’t bother to try.  I do, however, believe that people can take steps to improve themselves in small ways and agree that the new year is a good enough place to start as any.  And so, I cleaned out my closet today and finally threw out the leather pants I haven’t worn since 1999.  They’re hot, and I think they still might fit but I’m not going to wear them and they’re just taking up space in my small closet.  And I threw out the multiple drafts of Just Friends With Benefits I had printed out during the revision process which added to my already cluttered living space.  My apartment still does not look like my mother’s but it’s something.  And I will go food shopping tomorrow and stock my refrigerator with enough food to prepare my own meals a few times this week.  I won’t make coq au vin but I can certainly heat up soup, make tuna fish and even grill chicken, the last one only if I’m particularly ambitious.   

For shits and giggles, however, let’s just say I did make New Year’s Resolutions.  Hypothetically speaking, of course, they might include the following:

 Write a blog a week

 Finish my second novel

Really get into football and not just use it as an excuse to drink beer on Sundays 

Live in the present and stop worrying about the “what-ifs”

Let go of the things and people who have hurt me in the past. 

Stop taking it all so personally.  If people I knew from high school and college can’t bring themselves to click “like” on my Facebook page or God forbid, buy my book, so what?  It doesn’t make it any less of an accomplishment that I wrote one and got it published.

Don’t take my own insecurities out on the people who care for and are good to me.

 Kick fear to the curb

 And what the heck:

Work out harder

Eat healthy

Channel my inner Susan (my mom) by cleaning my apartment like the president is coming to dinner

Become an awesome cook. 

It’s a hypothetical list, remember?